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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Nurturing W. Getting Touchy-Feely on the Campaign Trail BY LOUISA C. BRINSMADE W: The Revenge of the Bush Dynasty. By Elizabeth Mitchell. Hyperion. 334 pages. $22.95. fter the death in 1953 of three-year old Robin Bush from leukemia she was the only girl in the four pack of Bush boys her mother, Barbara Bush, was despondent and holed up in her Midland home. Writing in the March issue of Talk Magazine, Bill Minutaglio \(author of First Son, scene this way: “Listening one day from inside her house, she heard [George W.] tell a friend he couldn’t come and play because his mother was lonely. She was cementing her status as the family disciplinarian a role she has played ever since.” That same family story is told in Elizabeth Mitchell’s W: The Revenge of the Bush Dynasty. Mitchell has it this way: “With the windows open and the curtains blowing in the breeze, [Barbara Bush] heard young George telling his pal he couldn’t go play. ‘I have to be with my mother she’s so unhappy,’ he said. That’s when she realized that she had to let him be a child.” In this case, Mitchell’s version of events is likely closer to what actually happened, and her softer treatment coupled with a sort of amateur psychoanalysis seems appropriate, at least in the early chapters, when her focus is on George W.’s childhood. The romanticism implicit in this passage, however, clings all the way to the end. The book begins with the tale of George Herbert Walker Bush’s enlistment in the Navy during World War -II, and continues somewhat tediously through his marriage to Barbara Pierce, the birth of their five chilin Midland, his term in the U.S. House, and his various appointments to the U.N., the R.N.C., the C.I.A., and finally his service in the White House. Meanwhile, young George is growing up, weaving along his fa ther’s academic and career path with notably less success: Andover, Yale, Skull and Bones, the National Guard, Midland, and yes, even a failed run for Congress. The only real accomplishment young George can claim for his very own is in the baseball business. Everything else belonged to the senior George, who did it first, and better. Yet, despite the tangible and meaningful shortcomings in the son exposed by Mitchell’s retread of the father-son comparison, the book’s tone is far ‘too forgiving to be politically useful. Such compassion should be reserved for the Kennedys. Our subjects here are very much alive and one of them is running for president. Not that Mitchell should be more critical, just more of a critical thinker. The Bush story, the way she tells it, is rarely challeng ing or entertaining. A metronomically chronological account of the life of a young boy who wants to please his important father? Yawn. But a young boy who’s not quite as kind, principled, smart, visionary, or accomplished, squatting on his father’s well-earned coattails? Now, that’s a story. It’s one we never get. Mitchell is a thorough researcher and writes in a style suitable to an historian, but never is her lack of critical analysis more evident than when she fidgets with bringing her subject to task. In a chapter devoted to George W.’s years in Midland, where he struggled to match his father’s success in the oil business, the son is assisted financially on various occasions by relatives and friends of his father \(or at least those wanting an “in” with A The Family Bush Jana Birchum APRIL 14, 2000 36 THE TEXAS OBSERVER