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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This isn't just a family; it's also a national franchise system. Bush children for years were told to "Go forth and seek your fortunes elsewhere," just as the Walkers and the Bushes had done in the 1920s. And so they have: after college and grad school George W. went back to Texas. Jeb went to Florida. Other sons gave Virginia and Colorado a try. The by-product was like a series of feeder colonies, a 50-state network with kinsmen and pyramid builders always ready to report for duty. Even the matriarch, Barbara Bush, who would dismiss the word dynasty with a frosty toss of her head, was known to remind people back in 1999 that "1 out of every 8 Americans is governed by a Bush."

•THEY'RE MORE LIKE US THAN YOU THINK

The Bushes have developed an Everyfamily feel that they lacked 25 years ago, and this too has made them better pols. Bush 41 grew up taking a limousine to school but then moved to dusty West Texas and suffered the loss of his first daughter. Bush 43 struggled at business and had a notoriously irresponsible streak until his 40th birthday. Jeb's wife Columba was fined for customs violations, and his daughter Noelle has battled prescription-drug addiction. Neil Bush, the President's brother, went through an eyebrow-raising divorce. And First Daughters Barbara and Jenna have been caught on the wrong side of fake IDs once or twice. The Bushes stopped marrying heirs and heiresses a generation ago. They went from being highbrow Episcopalians to being Methodists like W. and Catholics like Jeb. And many in the family have known their share of heartbreak. All that has humanized the formidable family and made the Bushes stronger at the gut-level game of connecting emotionally with voters in the crunch of a close campaign.

So why the reluctance to admit the business they are really in? It would be unwise to tout oneself as a dynasty in a country that specifically bans nobility in the Constitution. Plus, it wars with the family's kitchen-table lesson that calling attention to oneself is tacky, if not just plain wrong. "President Bush [41] would cross out every personal pronoun in his speech drafts, changing every I to a we," recalls his staff secretary James Cicconi. "The family ethic frowns upon anyone who is self-centered or self-seeking."

That too is just smart politics. And in that category, the results speak for themselves.

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