Kitty Versus the Bushes

It took Kitty Kelley four years, four sets of lawyers, and nearly a thousand interviews to produce The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. She watched every word, pored over every document, and had everything quadruple-checked before she dared send her 705 pages off to the publishers. She knew that doubt would be cast not only on her work, but her character as well. She knew because she'd been through it several times before.

In 1984, Frank Sinatra went to court to stop her before she'd even written a word about him. He lost. His Way: An Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra came out in 1986 and The New York Times' William Safire called it "the most eye-opening celebrity biography of our time." She wrecked the Norman Rockwell image of the Reagans in Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography. In 1997, The Royals, her exposé of the British royal family, was published in 22 languages, but was judged too incendiary for release in Britain. Kelley has learned to be excruciatingly careful, now more than ever, because she has painted a dark, unflattering portrait of what may be the most politically powerful, secrecy-shrouded family in America. Kelley knew that the Bushes would drag her to court in a split second, if any of her facts didn't hold water. White House communications director Dan Bartlett ominously muttered, "Kitty Kelley's allegations make Michael Moore look like a factual documentarian. We're not going to let this garbage she's historically known for spreading go unanswered." But the writer hasn't received a subpoena yet. Conservative media stalwarts have gone after her with frightening fervor. On the Today show, typically affable host Matt Lauer seemed prepared to rip the diminutive blond a new one. New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani complained that The Family offered "little to say about national security, the Florida election standoff, or the Bush family's ties to the Saudis," a statement akin to arguing that legendary gossip queens Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons shed little light on World War II in their coverage of Hollywood in the Forties. You shouldn't turn to Kitty Kelley's book for her political insight. You read it for the low-down dirt that so-called credible, non-partisan reporters have chosen to gloss over, the grime that doesn't jibe with the perfect picture that the government shows the world: George W. Bush's cocaine use, the careful airbrushing of the Bush family tree to exclude retarded children and ex-wives, W's alleged anti-Semitism and apparent membership in the "whites only" Rainbo Club back in east Texas, and the fact this president has done his best to ensure that the Bush family's economic and political skeletons remain in a deep, dark closet.