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The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty Hardcover – Apr 6 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (April 6 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385498632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385498630
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,386,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Like Kevin Phillips in his bestselling American Dynasty, the Schweizers trace the history of the Bush family back to progenitors George Herbert Walker and Samuel P. Bush. It's easy to spot both continuity and change in four generations of prominent Bushes. Of Prescott Bush's career in business, we're told, "Consensus and camaraderie forged behind closed doors suited him perfectly," a description that fits his grandson's style in the White House. And many of the family's connections span decades: Back in 1928, a firm headed by Prescott Bush purchased Dresser Industriesâ€"which today is a subsidiary of Halliburton. However, the family's politics have shifted rightward like those of their party: Prescott Bush lost his first election after being "smeared" as an advocate of birth control, and later he became one of the first senators to denounce Joseph McCarthyâ€"a bold gesture of moderation. Unlike Phillips, the Schweizers try hard to put a positive spin on the family saga. They insist that George H.W. Bush disliked negative campaigning, without mentioning the infamous Willie Horton ad that helped him win the 1988 election. When recounting the Florida election crisis of 2000, they find it "troublesome" that Carol Roberts, who oversaw the Palm Beach recount, was a Gore supporter, but fail to note that election supervisor Katherine Harris helped run Bush's Florida campaign. Thus, while this group portrait usefully gathers much family lore in a single, accessible source, the unbiased, authoritative story of the dynasty remains to be written.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Using the extraordinary access that allowed them to interview Bush relatives, intimates, and even members of the core family (including Jeb Bush), the Schweizers have put together an exhaustive yet highly readable biography of the Bush dynasty that offers real insight into its origins and inner workings. The book mostly lets the events speak for themselves; what comes across repeatedly is that, going back to President Bush's great-grandfather, the way the family kept getting ahead was to "forge relationships to succeed." In fact, for all its detail on the Bush family, this volume is really a chronicle of how the old-boy network works in this country. As such, it spells out in no uncertain terms the advantage that those on the inside have when it comes to making money and raising money for business ventures and political campaigns. Further, following the Bush family tree offers a perfect illustration of the way old-boy connections are passed on to family members, often through associations like Yale's Skull-and-Bones Club, which has benefited several generations of Bushes. Although hardly dishy, the book offers some startling information about George W., in particular, the rivalry between him and his brother Jeb; the evolution of the president's evangelical faith; and his complicated relationship with his father. Read this in tandem with Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty [BKL N 1 03], which views much of the same information from a far less benign point of view. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
The Bushes are a fascinating family, but you only skim the surface in this very soft rundown of the family's history. The most intersting parts of the book come early, where we meet the original Bushes (and Walkers, the current president's grandmother's parents on his father's side). The narrative nicely fills in the history and gives you context for the current and former president's attitudes. There is much to admire about the Bushes, even if you accept that this is a very airbrushed, "authorized" narrative. They are hardworking, loyal and principled (mostly). But they are also untiring resume builders, and you get the distinct sense that the presidency (or any other public office) is something they pursue not to accomplish something so much as to impress the rest of the family (living and dead). Aside from the fluffiness of the analysis (which always seems to put the best spin on anything the Bushes have done), the book peters out about halfway through, when we get to fairly current history. By the time the narrative gets to George H.W.'s vice presidency and presidency, the litany is basicaly a hopping around to mention all the greatest hits of the family history in very cursory fashion (Clinton and Gore literally are mentioned once(!) in the part about the 1992 presidential election). The editing is very sloppy. Some quotes appear more than once in different parts of the book and there are some embarassing misspellings and other minor but annoying mistakes. If you want a history of the Bush clan, this is not a bad palce to start, but for incisive analysis, look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
Peter and Rochelle Schweizer, the authors of Portrait of a Dynasty, claim to have relied mainly on interviews with friends and family members of the president and his father, the ex-president, for their facts. This is remarkable, because the result, while hardly a brutal attack on the family, is not very complimentary.
George H. W. comes across as an ambitious man who schmoozes his way into jobs, and who works hard, but who has no big goals he wants to accomplish once he gets there. He famously acknowledged that he lacked "the vision thing." He seemed to be absent as a father, but most men were in those days. Still, for a man who claimed to prize loyalty and family above all, it was unforgivable for him to miss George W.'s graduation from Yale. W. was disappointed, according to this book, so it seems even stranger that he would miss his own daughters' graduation, as well.
George W., our current president, comes across as a rude, foul-mouthed, ruthless politician who learned while acting the heavy during his father's administration, that the press was the enemy and that his father wasn't tough enough. His behavior while he was drinking was irresponsible, but after he stopped drinking and found religion, he didn't seem to be any more pleasant to be around. He still mocked people he perceived as being his enemy and was rather strident about his beliefs.
I'll admit that I skipped most of the parts about the generations before George H. W., but the sections on the two presidents, Jeb, and the brothers, make up for the boring spots. The women are glossed over, not because of the authors' bias, but because women are for support in this family. Barbara burst out of that role and upstaged her husband, but it is unlikely that Laura will do anything like that.
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Format: Hardcover
This very well written and fascinating book is highly recommended -- and it has none of the "warts" and vendetta of Kevin Phillips' "American Dynasty," which pales by comparison and trashed the Bushes at every opportunity.
Obviously the Schweizers benefited enormously from access to the Bush family, and the insights are terrific.
George W. comes off better, in my opinion, than his father. I found it interesting that "Big George" had qualms about running for reelection, and the authors describe in vivid detail how the "fire" to win again had gone out of his belly (pp. 401 & 403).
George W. seems to be cut more from his mother's feisty cloth, which may make the difference in the 2004 election. His rise to the top may not have been conventional, but he may have more staying power than his father did; and historians may treat his presidency better in the years to come.
Perhaps George W.'s wisest decision was Laura. He wanted someone who was "steady and calm" (p. 260), and obviously she changed his life for the better. He is also genuinely religious, and took to heart Billy Graham's teaching that he was "created by God for a reason" (p. 333).
Because of Colu Bush's understandable reticence, it is questionable whether Jeb will ever reach the pinnacle. George P. is still an unknown quantity, and therein may lie the end of the "Dynasty" unless other Bushes emerge onto the national political scene.
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Format: Hardcover
The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty is a wholly readable, if not entirely engrossing, family biography which seeks to exploit unprecedented access to the broad Bush network of family and friends. Though "breezy" is far too light a term, this effort seems more a 500-page People Magazine article than a scholarly work of heft, analysis, and insight. Coverage of issues and events are largely superficial as the Schweizer's concentrate mainly on the emotive reactions of persons involved. Though this is not unexpected in a biography, momentous events have occured throughout the Bush dynasty. Unfortunately, for those desiring a broader contextual experience, the authors seem content to merely swipe at them and move on.
Those of an anti-Bush stripe will undoubtedly uncover the subtle (and not so subtle) pro-Bush underpinnings of the book, but the pro-Bush contigent may walk away equally dissatisfied as the Schweizer's don't really provide much ideological grist for either mill. The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty may affirm positive or negative gut feelings for the reader, but don't look to it to provide scholarly insight, policy analysis, or even moderate discussion of historical context. It provides no practical, encompassing historical vantage point. It's simply not that kind of book.
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