Don't Call It A Dynasty

But that's what the Bush family is. So just how has America's most enduring political family endured, and who's next in line?

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The Bushes hate the word Dynasty, but they can't resist telling these kinds of stories: on the first day of his son's presidency, George Herbert Walker Bush, tired and cold from the Inauguration parade, was relaxing in a tub in the White House when he heard a knock at the bathroom door. It was a longtime butler telling him that the President wanted to see him in the Oval Office. At first, a groggy Bush was a bit confused about who this President was. Then, of course, he realized it was his son. He considered saying no, wanting to finish his soaking, but he thought better of it, and so the wet former President sprang out of the tub, got dressed and, with still damp hair, went over to the Oval Office to visit his eldest child. The moment of one President being summoned by another was immortalized in a picture that popped up around the White House.

The scene was repeated almost exactly four years later, and this time it was Barbara Bush who was eager to describe it. "We had a repeat of it the day after the election this year," she told TIME. "George was in the shower, and George W. at 7 a.m. came by, and he said, 'Mom, where's Dad?' I said, 'He's in the shower.' He said, 'Well, tell him if he wants to come up to the Oval Office, I'd love to have him over there.' You never saw a guy get out of the shower so fast in your life and get over there."

You get the point: this family may have produced two Presidents of the U.S., the Governors of the second and fourth most populous states and one U.S. Senator, but theirs is an accidental dynasty, perpetuated, above all, by a sense of humility. "No braggadocio" is how White House chief of staff Andy Card describes the family ethic. "I know from President Bush 41 that he was chastised by his mother not to practice braggadocio. When they have a lot to brag about, there is no pounding of the chest," he says.

Compare the Bushes with the Kennedys, and it's the Republican clan that casts the longer shadow. A Kennedy was President for a thousand days or so, but if George W. Bush completes his second term, someone named Bush will have been President for 4,383 days. There has been a Bush on the Republican ticket for six of the past seven presidential elections and a Bush in or near the White House for 16 of the past 24 years. And the run may not be over. Jeb Bush said in October that he would not run in 2008, but not everyone believes that promise is airtight. "I think there's still a sliver of a chance he goes," said one of Jeb's confidants. "First, it's the family business, and it's hard to see him leaving it. And there are enough unemployed Bush samurai out there who will want to eat and who will lean on him to run. He may not want to do it now, but I think he may."

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