1 in 8 Americans ...

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."

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."

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."


Big Brother's Approval

Back in May:

President Bush suggested Wednesday that he'd like to see his family's White House legacy continue, perhaps with his younger brother Jeb as the chief executive.

The president said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is well-suited for another office and would make "a great president."

"I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that's his intention or not," Mr. Bush said

Jeb Bush has repeatedly said he is not going to run in 2008.

But even his own father said no one believes him when he says he's not interested in running at some point. Former President George H.W. Bush told CNN's "Larry King Live" last year that he would like Jeb Bush to run one day and that he would be "awfully good" as president.

The Florida governor laughed when asked about his father's comments last June. "Oh, Lord," he said and shook his head no. "I love my dad."


Quantitative Analysis of Political Dynasties

Here is the conclusion from a working paper from some people the Economics Department of Brown University. They quantitatively analyzed all the U.S. Congressmen since 1789 to see if there is any effect to having relatives who also served in Congress. Here it is:

We document patterns in the evolution and profile of political dynasties in the Congress of the United States since its inception in 1789. We then explore the dynastic transmission of political power with a focus on the presence of self-perpetuation, a force that theorists such as Pareto, Michels, and Mosca thought to play a significant role. We show that the tenure length of legislators is correlated with the probability of their having a relative entering Congress in the future. This probability increases by roughly three percentage points when gaining reelection at least once, which entails a 40% increase over the baseline probability. While this correlation could be due to unobserved family characteristics, two different IV strategies allow us to determine that there is an important causal component: having a long tenure in Congress increases the probability of establishing a dynasty. In other words, a dynasty's longer experience with power at one point in time increases its chances of holding power later in time, implying that a self-perpetuating force affects the composition of political elites. Put differently, shocks to political power have persistent effects. Finally, we study the connection between dynastic prevalence and political competition. We ask whether the advantages of elite politicians stem from features that are valuable to voters. Since political competition should promote the success of politicians that are more valuable to voters, the fact that dynastic politicians are less prevalent under stronger competition suggests that dynastic politicians are not the most valued by voters. Hence, the dynastic self-perpetuation effect we detect in the US Congress may have hindered voters' will to delegate to the most valuable politicians.

Our results shed some light on the channels through which the dynastic transmission of political power takes place. First, the fact that there is a causal relationship between tenure length and the probability of starting or continuing a dynasty shows that superior original endowments (in terms of genes, for instance) cannot fully explain the observed political dynasties. Second, the fact that dynastic politicians are less likely to have previous public o¢ ce experience suggests that dynastic politicians may not be characterized by a stronger vocation for public service. This is contrary to the idea that relatives of successful politicians may develop a vocation for public service. Finally, the fact that more political competition is associated with less dynastic politicians suggests that dynastic transmission may be more related to advantages such as superior contacts with party machines than to features valued by voters, such as valuable experience or superior human capital. We leave for future research a more detailed study of the different channels through which political power is transmitted.

"Political Dynasties"
Ernesto Dal Bo, Pedro Dal Bó, and Jason Snyder
No 2006-15, Working Paper from Brown University, Department of Economics
(retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)


Only Another Dynasty Understands Me

It was one of the most public manifestations to date of the odd friendship and mutual need of two dynasties that, on the surface at least, have almost nothing in common. But as President Bush put it in an interview with CBS News last month, "Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton." Mr. Bush made the remark in a telling exchange with Bob Schieffer, who said, "Well, you know, if Senator Clinton becomes president."
"There we go," Mr. Bush said.
"Maybe we'll see a day," Mr. Schieffer continued.
"Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton," Mr. Bush responded.

People who know both the Clintons and the Bushes said Mr. Bush's remark about Mrs. Clinton was the more honest personal view. It reflected, they said, the growing friendship between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush's father, the first President Bush, and the powers of a shared experience that just five men alive — the two Bushes, Mr. Clinton and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford — wholly understand.
"They've got this secret handshake that nobody else knows about," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat who was a top White House adviser to Mr. Clinton.

In the meantime, associates of former President Bush and Mr. Clinton say that the two have moved beyond their road show for tsunami and hurricane relief into a genuine friendship and that they have told members of each of their parties to stop complaining about the bond.
In June, Mr. Clinton stayed with Mr. Bush at the former president's retreat in Kennebunkport, Me., where they played golf and raced in Mr. Bush's speedboat. They have also gotten together about a dozen times in the past year for meetings, television tapings and private meals.

(retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)

The Dynasty Expert

Stephen Hess is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and has been involved with DC politics since Eisenhower. He has often written on american dynasties, including this book, America's Political Dynasties. He's also quoted in http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20050119-123016-5212r.htm, an article that I quoted below in "How an American Dynasty was Created." He was interviewed in Oct 2002 by NPR, which you can listen to here. Here is an excerpt from an article he wrote in 1978 about dynasties:

This is an odd phenomenon, a democratic electorate's love affair with a political royalty.

It is perhaps not very surprising that so many children of politicians go into politics. After all, it's daddy's business. Lots of doctors's children go to medical school.
Nor is it remarkable that so many politicians marry the children of politicians. They move in the same social circles.

The genetics of politics is strengthened by the tradition that widows of members of Congress are often appointed or elected to fill their husbands' unexpired terms.

If there are explanations why certain families gravitate to political life, it is less clear why the voters choose members of the same families to represent them generation after generation. This is one type of voting behavior that cannot be blamed on television. America's political dynasties go back to the colonial period. There have been some 700 families in which two or more members have served in Congress, and they account for 1,700 of the 10,000 men and women who have been elected to the federal legislature since 1774.
Voters may be inclined to favor political royalists because often—though not always—they are rich enough so as not to be tempted to steal from the public till. Interestingly, however, until relatively recently the immensely rich did not seek public office. Pierre Du Pont IV, now governor of Delaware, can count only one Du Pont ancestor who served in Congress. Rather, the pattern used to be that the very rich married their daughters to politicians. Vice President Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was the first Rockefeller to run for office, but his maternal grandfather, Nelson Aldrich, was a powerful senator from Rhode Island.
It would appear that "brand name" identification is worth something in politics as it is at the supermarket. Yet how far can office-seekers go on the basis of a famous name? The answer seems to be that the voters give political royalists one "free" election. Two sons of Franklin D. Roosevelt were elected to the House of Representatives, and both were defeated when they sought statewide office. Ted Kennedy's first election probably can be attributed to his name.
In assessing the public record of the great political families, not all have been as consistently superior as the Tafts of Ohio, nor have they all been on an intellectual level with the Massachusetts Adamses, nor have they all had the flair of the Roosevelts—but taken collectively their performance has been well above average.
The opposite traditions of political royalty and Horatio Alger have always coexisted in American politics. Washington and Lincoln, Jefferson and Jackson.

(as retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)

No Hereditary Kings in America

Last summer a judge (incidentally appointed by Jimmy Carter, who was about as non-royal a president one can have) ruled against some of the wiretapping efforts of the Bush administration. She included this interesting aside in her opinion:

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights . . . There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution."

(as retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)

Another Example of America as an Example

There have been violent street protests in Togo against the army's installation of Faure Gnassingbe as president, in succession to his father who died 10 days ago.
The Togolese demonstrators see his appointment as establishing an unwanted political dynasty. But there are many examples of such dynasties elsewhere in the world, not least in the United States. Are they necessarily a bad thing?
Do such dynasties keep alive a past that people would prefer to break with? Or are they a good thing, in that they present the people with a name that is familiar and reassuring?

(as retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)

The Familial Trap

A new book called GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The Troubled Lives of Political Families was recently written by Noemie Emery with the premise that the descendants of political dynasties are driven by their progenitor's legacy and aren't necessarily happy. I guess we're supposed to feel a little sorry for them. What the Washington Post wrote about the book:

What if from the minute you were born, you were trained to be president? What if you were a cousin or a brother of someone who was being polished fo r the presidency, but you were the one who wanted the job? Even worse, what if you craved that lofty office more than life itself and came to think you were cheated out of it? Or what if you ran and lost?

Where "Great Expectations" differs from conventional history is in its focus on the personal, the emotional casualties that arise from voracious expectations of driven parents with enormous political ambitions. Daughters in these families are lucky; they generally have been free from unreasonable pressure, but heaven help the sons. The Kennedys are not the only ones to flame out dramatically in the third generation. They can be matched, catastrophe by catastrophe, by sons in the Adams family.

Yes, John Quincy Adams did become president, but he forever felt that he'd failed to live up to his father's example. As for his brothers? One died alone and in disgrace from cirrhosis of the liver; the other lived on for a while in wretchedness, then died of liver failure as well. (Not so different from the fates of some of the latter generation of Kennedys, except for their drugs of choice, the author points out.)

Emery draws parallels between George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy -- which probably would give both of them hives. Both were younger brothers, semi-rebellious, not explicitly chosen by their families for presidential laurels, but they rose to occasions of great responsibility. Kennedy weathered the Bay of Pigs and triumphed in the Cuban missile crisis. And the 43rd president, Emery contends, has also turned out to be decisive and strong. He invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, decided to "extend the meaning of the new war on terror to include states suspected of backing or arming the terrorists," declared that preventive wars were justifiable and determined to introduce democracy to the Middle East. The formerly rebellious younger son has "avenged and surpassed his own father, having first dispatched his father's tormentors and enemies: Ann Richards in Texas; Al Gore, who attacked him as Clinton's vice president; and Saddam Hussein."

These are stories embedded in the national consciousness, stories we feel we know. Teddy Roosevelt's extraordinary derring-do, for instance, is part of our American legend, though the grief of Teddy's own son at being passed over for the presidency is not so well documented. And FDR's panache still lives in memory, while the destinies of his children remain shrouded in disgrace.

(as retrieved Dec. 27, 2006)

Dynasties are Not the Way of a Democracy

Another plea to the Bushes and Clintons to stop the dynasties, this time from the Chicago Sun-Times in May 2006:

Will someone please tell the Bush family that dynasties are not exactly the way of a democracy?

And while we're on the subject of dynasties, will someone please tell Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York that a last name touting her as a potential president does not entitle her to the office.

But first the Bushes. President 41 and President 43 have locked arms to praise Florida's governor -- Jeb Bush is his name if you've forgotten -- as presidential timber. Jeb has been cool to the idea up to now but is leaving office on term limits next year.

The nation had the Adams father and son combination early its history, but none since then. Then there was President William Henry Harrison and his grandson, President Benjamin Harrison. The Taft family got into a run, but grandson Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio didn't make it as William Howard Taft did earlier in history.

The point here is that Dad and W can talk up Jeb as a loving father and devoted brother. But the Republicans ought to take a deep breath and look elsewhere. As for Mrs. Clinton, she should get strong opposition, too, if she really decides to run. As for me, I have a problem with the White House lineup since 1989 to 2009 reading Bush, Clinton, Bush -- and then who?

(as retrieved on Dec 1 2006)

America is a Role Model (even to Moslems)

Nizam Ahmad, the director of a Bangladeshi think tank, wrote this article when a scion of a previous Bangladeshi leader entered politics. I find it fascinating how he, especially as a Moslem, holds American democracy up as an ideal.

When the US was founded, the Americans did everything to avoid the European lesson of absolute rule. Lord Acton the ‘historian of liberty’ and one of the most learned Englishmen of his time, had famously remarked that ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Pioneering Americans fled away from European feudal monarchies and domination by the church, determined to keep despotic tyranny out of their lives. They chose individualism and democracy, legally ensured their system to prevent one individual from gaining absolute power. However, that political philosophy seems lost today.

People tend to submit to human power and authority for a variety of reasons, and this caused the practice of Divine Kingship and of monarchies to flourish until people no longer accepted human authority in any form, as the Americans and French did in the 18th century. But, man’s inclination to dominate man cannot be wiped out, and new forms of dictatorship and authority continue to plague the world.

Nevertheless, the struggle for freedom and liberty continues and will continue until the end of this world. Through centuries, man has trailed liberty and in the words of Lord Acton again, ‘liberty is the prevention of control by others’.

As Muslims, we too are free from any human authority and control other than the Authority of God. Unfortunately, the Muslim political world is yet to be democratic where individual freedom and the right to dissent are anything but honoured.

However, man’s frailties and his weaknesses are more pronounced when in poverty. In this situation, to speak up is to risk one’s life or income. In Bangladesh, whether in business, in job or in politics, we readily agree with authority or risk getting into deep trouble.

Excessive loyalty or sycophancy has another human dimension. We will often do it for an afterwards reward knowing well that sycophancy is the only way to reach the top, or to get something. Here, merit, wisdom, integrity or experience is of no value.

We often hear that people are vile as they shamelessly run after power and authority, but they are far clever and realise that only sycophancy is the sure way to be somebody. In undemocratic conditions, Dr. F. A. Hayek, the Austrian free market legend and 1974 Nobel Prize winner in economics, fittingly said, ‘only the worst gets to the top’.

Dynasties in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, despite their prominence have done nothing significant for democracy or the economy; rather they have stymied democracy and economic potential by trying to hold on to power and corruption.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

I agree with his criticism of dynasties. In addition, because American democracy is indeed such an admired and observed institution around the world, I think we have the responsibility to avoid the appearance of nondemocratic leadership found in dynasties. Developing democracies need a good role model.

Diminishing Returns

The blogger quoted below agrees with the Washington Post that dynasties get worse with each generation, but he also includes the Bushes in that assesment. (He wrote this at the end of 2005, so George W.'s popularity had waned by then.) In any case, I agree with him full-heartedly that dynasties just do not make the best governments, and second his plea to Hilary not to run.

Not because she's a Democrat, not because she's a woman, not because she is or isn't a lesbian, not because she's moved too far to the right or she's still too far to the left, not because she did or didn't have something to do with Vince Foster's death, not because she dissed Tammy Wynette and cookie baking moms, not because she's a Cubs fan, not because she pretends to be a Yankees fan, not because of that hairdo--in short, not for any of the usual reasons that the partisans dredge up.

I'm against Hillary Clinton becoming president for what I would consider a practical reason: I'm against political dynasties. Wherever you find a political dynasty--even in democracies (especially in democracies!)--you're sure to catch a whiff of corruption and decay on the breeze.

Look at the Duvalier family in Haiti, the Gandhi-Nehru nexus in India, the Bhuttos in Pakistan, the Sukarnos in Indonesia, the Kennedys. Each case proves that immutable fact of dynastic political families: the law of diminishing returns. Nowhere is this law more evident than in the United States right now with the Bush clan. Say what you will about Bush the elder, but he's genius and a brilliant statesman compared to his son.

Even if we were to trade up the current dynastic scale in 2008, a Jeb Bush presidency would do even more to damage America's image--at home and abroad--than George W. has. Even the Republicans seem to realize that there would be something unseemly about having Jeb run for president.

Hillary Clinton was essentially gifted her Senate seat--the first political office she's ever held--because of her role as First Lady. If she becomes president, it will appear to many that she got where she is because of her connections and her last name. That's not the message we want to send to the American public, and it's most certainly not a message we want to send across the pond to friends and allies who may already be questioning just how democratic our political system is. We fought two wars against the British to free ourselves from the tyranny of hereditary rule. Do we really want to return to it by choice?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'd like to see a female president as much as the next guy. But is our democracy really so weak that she's the only one? American political history is already lousy with political dynasties. Let's not make it one more.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

A Ceiling to this Upward Trajectory?

The Washington Post noted at the beginning of George W.'s second term that each generation of the Bush dynasty has been more successful than the last. For the next Bush generation, I don't know what the next rung in the ladder of sucess is after "2-term President." Maybe "effective and popular 2-term President"? So maybe in the disturbingly possible future in 10 years or so, when George P. is president, he'll win accolades by finally getting the troops out of Iraq.

The Bush political dynasty has some distinctive features. Most notable is its clear upward trajectory, each generation exceeding the political success of the one before it. Prescott S. Bush, the 43rd's grandfather, was elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 57 in 1952, serving two terms before his retirement. George Herbert Walker Bush went from two terms in the U.S. House through a succession of presidential appointments before his single term as president -- losing to Democrat Bill Clinton in a contest that family friends say left a bitter residue that George W. Bush was determined not to taste for himself.

Most political dynasties, at least in the past century, have had a downward momentum. Some of Roosevelt's four sons who survived to adulthood were politically ambitious, but none managed to leverage a famous name into a historically consequential career. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. came the closest, becoming a New York congressman but losing a race for governor. And while the Kennedy family for years was virtually synonymous with political charisma and ambition, no family member after JFK reached the presidency, and no one in the generation after him and his famous brothers -- Robert and Edward, both U.S. senators -- has approximated their political achievements.

The Bush family's success is all the more remarkable for another reason: Even many admirers regard the Bushes as distinctly life-sized characters and have been surprised to witness how the current president's policies have reshaped American politics and the world at large.

"The Bushes are not a very charismatic family," said Victor Gold, a veteran political hand who has been friendly with the family for three decades and helped the 41st president write his memoirs. "When you are around them, you don't get the feeling of a political family the way you do with the Kennedys. . . . There's no glamour, and they do not market themselves that way."

His younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has said he does not intend to seek the presidency. In an interview with ABC News last week, the president said he believes that: "He's a wonderful guy. . . . I don't think he's interested in running." But these disavowals are not likely to smother speculation. Gold recently wrote in Washingtonian that he thinks the governor's son, George P. Bush, a 28-year-old Dallas lawyer, is the most likely to carry the family political torch.

Dallek said he believes the electorate, which historically has been ambivalent about the notion of dynasties, would probably be wary of another Bush presidency. "I don't think the country's going to want a kingship," he said, adding that the long-term value of the Bush name will be determined over the next four years. "So much of how he and the family will be regarded by history depends on how the second term turns out."

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)


How an American Dynasty was Created

Every fourth year in these United States, two things having to do with the presidency occur. First, we elect or reelect a president. Second, we are flooded with books about would-be presidents, most of which are puff pieces written to make those who seek the office look better than they really are.
Some of these books, however, are published primarily to take advantage of the fact that, in election years, Americans pay more attention to politics and the men and women who dominate the political scene.

In preparing to write their book the Schweizers spent hours and days interviewing family members and friends of the family, many of whom are quoted throughout the volume. Under the circumstances one could hardly expect their book to be anti-Bush, and it is not.
At the same time, the Schweizers appear to have made a determined effort to be objective. And while I'm sure all the warts in the huge Bush-Walker clan have not been exposed, the authors tell us enough to make it clear that there are no angels in the family, including the current president.
However, in wrapping up their book, the Schweizers leave the clear impression that they view the Bushes as the nation's dominant political family, not only now but also in the years ahead, with Jeb Bush an eventual Republican presidential nominee, and George P. Bush, Jeb's son, looming on the horizon.
As for those who would oppose a presidential run by Jeb, the Schweizers say, "In a world where political fund-raising drives media coverage, which in turn drives national attention, even popular figures in the GOP cannot help but feel that they are a small merchant shop up against Wal-Mart."

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

Above was written, by Lyn Nofziger, a former Reagan advisor, when reviewing "The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty", by Peter and Rochelle Schweizer. In this interview with the Washington Times, Mr Schweizer says:

"They've got to be considered the most successful political dynasty in American history.
"They've done it at a time when American politics is much more egalitarian. When the Adamses did it, it was still much more of an inside game than it is today.
"They don't have a patriarch like Joe Kennedy calling the shots. What you have is younger generations coming up and aspiring to live up to the family name. I think it's a dynasty for the 21st century."
The Bush formula for success "doesn't rest on the wisdom of the elders — it's kind of a free-market principle: If you think you can do it, go for it.
"It might be better to think of the Bushes as a brand name. The Bushes are more like a high-tech start-up. The Bush approach has always been to give them a high target to shoot for and then sort of let them go off and do it, so a lot of it depends on drive.
"There's no question that George W. Bush benefited in 2000 by carrying the Bush brand. You could make the case — no disrespect to him — that were it not for the Bush name, he would have had a very difficult time getting the nomination."
Mr. Schweizer agreed that George P. Bush has a bright future in politics. "He's likely to run for office at some future point, and were he ever to run for president, he'd be able to look at a pretty formidable pedigree, and, again, I think it's brand name that matters more than dynasty. They associate the name Bush with certain characteristics and certain qualities.
"In this family, politics is not something that is easily avoided."

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

and in this article that he wrote based on his book, Mr Schweizer also says:

Ask Bush family members whether they consider themselves a dynasty and you are likely to get a strong reaction. Family members will grimace, roll their eyes, or simply shake their head.

“D and L—those two words, dynasty and legacy—irritate me,” says former president Bush. “We don’t feel entitled to anything.”

“Dynasty schmynasty,” says Jeb.

The Bush hostility to the very notion of dynasty runs deep because it runs contrary to the myth that they are self-made. Although they are certainly more self-made than the Kennedys and have a strong drive to prove their worth, family members don’t think twice about going to family and friends in their climb to the top.

The Bush dynasty has been able to cultivate a mix of cooperation and competition among its members, which creates a strange dynamic in the father-son relationship. It is not simply coincidence that the last four generations of Bushes, while relying on their fathers’ network of friendships, relied very little on the fathers themselves. Indeed, when George H. W. Bush and later his son George W. sought their fortunes in the oil patch, they turned to uncles rather than their fathers for financial advice, capital, and support.


For a more critical discussion of the Bushes, read these reviews of this Bush book written in the spring of 2004:
"American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush".

I think you might recognize from the title how the author, Kevin Phillips (former Nixon White House strategist) feels about the Bush dynasty. Now, perhaps because of its strong critique of the Bush family, this book got a fair amount of press. Save yourself the time of reading the book and read from these reviews (entitled "Sins of the Fathers," and "Hail to the Chief, er King"):

In America, anyone can grow up to be President, right? Sadly, some families are now more equal than others in getting to the White House, asserts Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. The former Nixon White House strategist, who 35 years ago, in The Emerging Republican Majority, correctly predicted a virtual Republican lock on the South, has a startling new thesis: The Bush family has systematically used four generations of old-boy networking, national security involvement, and political deception to establish an American family aristocracy of sorts. Indeed, after his father's stinging reelection defeat in 1992, the worst shellacking for an incumbent Republican President since that of William Howard Taft in 1912, George W. Bush's election as President in 2000 bears an eerie resemblance to an old-style European restoration of a royal family, argues Phillips.

Phillips observes that the heirs in certain monarchical restorations -- such as England's King Charles II, brought back to the throne following the collapse of Oliver Cromwell's revolt, or Bourbon heir Louis XVIII, who reascended the throne of France following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte -- mirror some behavior and mind-sets visible today in the Bush "dynasty." Phillips argues dynasty heirs have usually surrounded themselves with their father's skilled counselors. Bush, of course, has Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. Restored monarchs historically assert "new assumptions of authority in war making," as Bush has done with the doctrine of preemption that allowed him to press ahead with the invasion of Iraq. Most interesting of all, perhaps, dynasties are known for "forgetting no slight and savoring revenge." That analogy can be made, the author argues, in the steady elimination of old Bush political foes, from Jim Hightower and Ann Richards in Texas right up to Saddam Hussein. Yet Phillips notes that restorations often end badly, with a popular backlash against the heir ...

Why was it that the Bushes -- not such other political tribes as the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, or the Tafts -- produced the first father-son Presidency since John Adams and son John Quincy Adams almost 200 years ago?

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

Phillips traces the origins of the Bush Dynasty to two of Dubya’s great grandfathers: Samuel Bush, an Ohio railroad-equipment manufacturer and father of Prescott, and George Walker, a St. Louis financier who would become Prescott’s father-in-law and lend his name to two subsequent generations of presidents.

After a successful career as an investment banker, Prescott became the founding member of the Bush political dynasty when he was elected senator from Connecticut in 1952. He begat the next in line: George Herbert Walker Bush, who after requisite stints at Andover and Yale, and several years milking his father’s buddies for oil investment dollars in Texas, was elected to Congress as the representative of an affluent Houston suburb. Two terms later he was named U.N. Ambassador, then Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and finally Director of the C.I.A. In 1980 Bush launched an improbable bid for the presidency and, despite running against Reagan, his blue-blood clout was strong enough to secure him the VP spot on the Republican ticket, which he parlayed eight years later into a successful presidential bid.

American Dynasty impressively describes an America where a small number of key industries—defense, intelligence, finance and energy—are so integral to the machinery of state that they are no longer subject to the rule of law. Phillips forcefully argues that much of the Bushes’ power and influence derives from their four-generation association with these same industries. In painstaking detail, we are guided through the Bushes’ entanglements in sundry forms of crony capitalism: from Sam Bush (the current president’s great grandfather) who served on the War Industries Board and made a modest fortune in producing armaments; to the postwar investments in Weimar and then Nazi Germany that became a staple of Prescott Bush’s Brown Brothers Harriman investment firm; to the later Bushes two-generation lovefest with an energy trading company called Enron.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

Good People Beget Good People?

Say what you want about Bill Frist, but he's apparently he likes his family as much as he likes himself. I guess that's good thing uh, sorta. He wrote a book called: Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family. Pretty dang pretentious if you ask me. But it shows that at least one person agrees with Adam Bellow's approval of nepotism.


Make Your Own Damn Dynasty

Adam Bellow is the son of novelist Saul Bellow, and the author of “In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History" where he makes no bones about how being the son of Saul Bellow got his book published. His book describes the merits of keeping business in the family.

In 2004, he wrote this article for MSNBC. He raises some good points, but I still think the President of the United States should not be an inheritance.

Despite our insistence on viewing ourselves as a society of self-made individuals, Americans have always respected family enterprise, and this respect has increasingly come to the fore in every sphere —from politics to professional sports. The once despised practice of nepotism is more and more out in the open, and already 2004 is shaping up to be a banner year for its practitioners.

Indeed, the proliferation of family ties in the world’s film and TV capital has become so dense and overlapping that it has come to resemble an inbred caste.

Music has long been a family business—J. S. Bach was the product of a century-old musical mafia—and the 46th annual Grammy Awards, to be held in February 2004, will likely provide another display of resurgent family ties. Last year Norah Jones (the daughter of Ravi Shankar) was pelted with awards. Previous winners from musical families include Jakob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Randy Newman, June Carter Cash and Wynton Marsalis. Given the proliferation of second-generation musicians and songwriters, it’s a good bet that some of them will crop up again this year.

Americans think of sports as rigorously meritocratic. After all, if you can’t hit a home run or sink a basket you won’t last long in this arena. Yet family ties abound in major sports, as we will be reminded when baseball starts in April and athletes like Barry Bonds, Roberto Alomar and Moises Alou take the field. All are sons of earlier stars.

Many people think that family business is in decline, but American entrepreneurs seem increasingly intent on leaving their businesses to their children. There are currently more than 24 million family-run firms in the United States, a staggering 90 percent of all American business. We can therefore confidently anticipate that 2004 will see a continuing increase in the number of businesses being passed on to family members. Moreover, numerous examples will be found to illustrate the perils of nepotism in business. Thus, the misadventures of Edgar Bronfman Jr. will continue to be gleefully chronicled. The heir to the Seagram’s fortune was sharply criticized for selling his family’s liquor interests and engineering an ill-fated move into the entertainment business. Another object lesson is Christopher Galvin, the CEO of family-owned Motorola, who resigned in October after a disastrous loss of position in the cellular-phone industry.

But these questionable cases are the exceptions. Despite what many think, the vast majority of nepotistic successors are capable and hardworking. Evidence comes in a recent study in The Journal of Finance, which found that family businesses are better managed, about 6 percent more profitable and 10 percent more valuable on average than their non-family-run counterparts. According to a recent survey by the Raymond Family Business Institute, revenues for family firms are up 50 percent since 1997, indicating that they may be recession proof. The institute also found that family managers plan better for the future, show more concern for product quality and view their firms as legacies to pass on instead of a source of wealth to consume in their lifetimes. They are less prone to opportunism than hired guns who demand enormous compensation packages, and less likely to lay off workers in a downturn.

But ground zero for American nepotism will be the November election, when voters will get to decide how they feel about the proliferation of family ties in our governing class.

But the center ring will be occupied by George W. Bush, the leading example of nepotistic succession in America today. Bush is in many ways a typical firstborn son of a dynastic family. In his youth, he had trouble shouldering the burden of his family’s expectations and went through a period of aimless drifting before he straightened himself out and returned to the family fold, running successfully for governor of Texas and then president. The first question on everyone’s mind was whether he would live up to his father’s example, and an undistinguished first 100 days in office seemed to suggest he would not. But the attacks of September 11 gave him a new sense of purpose, and he became a dominating figure on the world stage.

Yet given the circumstances of his election, the controversy surrounding his policies and the widely noticed pattern of nepotistic appointments in the Bush administration itself, the black cloud of nepotism still hangs over his head. Other presidents need only demonstrate basic competence and avoid disastrous mistakes, but Bush will never be considered legitimate unless he surpasses his father, as the Greek hero Theseus surpassed his father, Aegeus. This will mean (among other things) escaping his father’s fate as a one-term president—the fate that befell the last father-son presidents in American history, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. And whether he wins or loses, we will likely hear increasing speculation about a possible dynastic face-off in 2008 between First Brother Jeb Bush and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

What should we make of all this? Should we be concerned about the specter of rising inequality, hardening class barriers and obstructions to social mobility? Some people—mainly elite journalists and professors—plainly think we should. And it is perfectly true that people who choose to compete as families do better overall than those who compete as individuals. But as I have argued at length elsewhere, what Americans really dislike is the idea of nepotism. As an abstract proposition, they consider it harmful and illegitimate, but in practice they are quite willing to judge it on a case-by-case basis.

To which I would add that given the power of the market to determine social outcomes, the progress of meritocratic ideals and continued massive levels of immigration to the United States, the supposed threats to equal opportunity and democracy are unlikely to materialize. Certainly nothing like the barriers faced by immigrants at the turn of the last century exists today. And for those who feel unhappy about the fact that other people enjoy advantages passed down through generations of family striving, my advice is to go ahead and found your own dynasty. Nothing prevented Joseph P. Kennedy from doing so, and nothing is stopping you, either.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

If you're curious to hear more about the inheriting a business, go to this family business website where Adam Bellow is interviewed.

Iron Law of Oligarchy

It may be that political dynasties are inevitable. Essentially they are types of oligarchies. From Wikipedia:

The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory, first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It states that all forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies.

Robert Michels was disturbed to find that, paradoxically, the socialist parties of Europe, despite their democratic ideology and provisions for mass participation, seemed to be dominated by their leaders, just as the traditional conservative parties.
Studying political parties, he concluded that the problem lay in the very nature of organizations. Modern democracy allowed the formation of organizations such as political parties, but as such organizations grew in complexity, they paradoxically became less and less democratic. Michels formulated the "Iron Law of Oligarchy": "Who says organization, says oligarchy."

Now, Michels ended up working for Mussolini, so one wonders if his Iron Law was something he demoaned or exploited. In any case, read more of his thoughts here.

3 Reasons: Access, Respect, Popularity

My favorite quote from this article is actually a quote from the Times of India, which was talking about India, but could also be talking of the US, saying it is "a democracy of dynasties, for dynasties and by dynasties." Anyway, here's more speculation why dynasties occur.

What are the causes behind the emergence of political dynasties, and why do they remain resilient for decades, sometimes generations, even in democratic societies?

Hard-and-fast answers may be difficult to find, but some explanations could be easier to understand.

Three seem logical. First, access to the political system in most countries is costly in terms of money and only those who can afford the time, money, resources and have the requisite connections find an entry into what is often an exclusive if not closed club.

Political lineage buttressed by money helps facilitate that entry.

Bush, Gore, Tanaka, Macapagal-Arroyo fit the bill for what can be termed as politicians from Establishment families, with enough credentials due to a famous political surname to ensure a place on the political pedestal.

Then there are those who are respected for rendering services to their country during crucial periods, such as an independence struggle — hence, their legitimacy is unquestioned and widely accepted.

The Nehru family in India, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, Megawati Sukarnoputri in Indonesia, Hafez al Assad in Syria, Kim Il-Sung are some examples from this genre.

Finally, there are those whose leadership is etched in the popular imagination, and for people to identify with such a charismatic leader comes almost automatically.

Bhutto, Bandranaike, Peron of Argentina, Ziaur Rahman and Mujibur Rahman in Bangladesh, the Kennedys in the United States all were populists with charisma, which is then sometimes "transferred" to their scions and close relatives.

Whatever the cause, more often than not having a famous surname helps in politics, whether it is a socialist one-Party regime, a right-wing Republican presidency or an Islamic republic, or, for that matter, just a plain old traditional democracy.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

More on Brands

Charles Krauthammer wrote more about namebrands (9/99), but his feeling is that it's for the people, not just for the campaign financiers:

When Edward M. Kennedy first ran for his brother John's Senate seat in 1962, his opponent famously said of this youngest, least distinguished Kennedy, "If his name were Edward Moore, [his] candidacy would be a joke." In this season of George W. Bush, a pleasant enough Governor of modest achievement, one is forced to ask, "If his name were George Walker, would he be a presidential candidate, let alone the runaway front runner for the Republican nomination?"

A nation can abolish monarchy, as America did with zest in 1776. But it cannot so easily abolish the dynastic impulse. The American fascination with royalty shows itself most flagrantly in our obsession with the Kennedys, but familial succession permeates American political life. Look no further than the glamour races for election year 2000. The top two Republican candidates are the son of a former President and the wife of the party's last presidential candidate (joined at the top by the son of a famous plutocrat).

Why is the dynastic impulse so popular, so powerful in democracies?

Perhaps in advanced capitalist countries like the U.S., the attraction to a Bush or a Dole has less to do with bloodline than with branding. The scions and consorts of the great carry trusted names. You buy Diet Pepsi because you know and trust Pepsi. You figure that if the Pepsi people are making a diet soda, it is bound to be O.K. People know and like--particularly in late-Clinton retrospect--Bush the elder. Knowing the Bush brand, they are willing to try Bush the younger.

Well, perhaps. But the branding rationale lets us all off too easily. After all, monarchy long predates capitalism. The dynastic impulse in the modern world is less an expression of advanced consumerism than a recrudescence of the most primitive political impulse: "Nay, but we will have a king over us" (I Samuel 8: 19). Here in America we only lend the throne, for a four- or eight-year stretch. Progress, I suppose, from the endless tenure of the Henrys and the Edwards, when your pig in a poke was for life. But less progress than we think.

(retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

Question: What's in a Name? Answer: a Brand

This piece from Salon was written July 21, 1999 by Bruce Shapiro, who presents a decent theory why namebrands are important in politics now.

Some of these dynasty members are liberal, some conservative; some are vigorous and principled public servants, some opportunistic louts who prefer to be known as brand names rather than for tough and clear political postures. But they are together the beneficiaries of a great, too-little-noted narrowing of American politics and power.

In part, this narrowing goes directly back to the Kennedy White House. Whoever occupied the presidency in 1961 would have had the same opportunity, but Jack Kennedy learned especially well the lessons of Hollywood, and understood in a profound way the radical new power that television would give incumbent office holders. He wrote the book by which media politics are still played. It was with the Kennedy White House -- and later, with Robert Kennedy's anti-war presidential primary -- that the terrain of American politics began its seismic shift from the smoke-filled room to the television screen. Today's dynasty members like Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush are incumbents in the only office that really counts: the media spotlight.

It was the Kennedys, too, who created the office-holding family as glamorous celebrities and established the country's long fascination with the Kennedy children, first seen playing under their father's desk and then standing mute at his graveside. It was the drive of Robert and Edward Kennedy, and later some of their children, to follow Jack into the electoral arena, that made the whole idea of a political dynasty safe for public consumption. In that sense, Hillary, George, Al and Liddy are all Jack Kennedy's children.

If there is one major generation gap between today's political sons and daughters and their parents, it is the shift in power from those old smoke-filled room to the corporate conference room. In 1960, Mayor Daley, the father, could deliver to JFK, the father, the presidential nomination and the White House through the power of his Chicago patronage machine. Patronage still matters, but the patronage that matters today is the campaign contribution. Mayor Daley, the son, spends the kind of time hobnobbing with Chicago bankers that Mayor Daley, the father, spent with neighborhood precinct captains.

If the Kennedy-inspired media spectacle is the engine of dynastic elections, its fuel line is the campaign-finance system established in the 1970s that turned the democratic vehicle of politics into a money-guzzling limo for the wealthiest political donors and interests. Large-scale campaign contributors are investors, and, like Goldman-Sachs, they prefer to risk their money on blue-chip stocks.

The campaign-finance system, in turn, only reflects an even deeper and more ominous development: a great concentration in power and wealth upward. It is this concentration that makes possible the huge, steaming heaps of campaign cash accumulated by the Bush campaign -- so much money that he is already rejecting federal campaign aid and the restrictions that come with it. JFK Jr's grandfather, Joseph Kennedy, was a bare-knuckle millionaire, but I doubt that in his wildest imaginings he could conceive of a country in which Bill Gates alone controls as much personal wealth as the bottom 40 percent of the population.

The great irony is that the dynastic politics of this summer turn upside-down what the Kennedy name once seemed to promise. The shift from candidates representing issues and constituencies to political brand names advertised like aspirin or automobiles narrows political engagement and puts power even more nakedly into the hands of wealthy donors and media brokers. Brand-name politics makes more distant the promise that many of those who mourn JFK Jr. this week once heard in his father's oratory on civil rights and economic justice, and later in the passion of Robert Kennedy's final crusades.

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

The Adams Family

This book review by John Tiffany isn't that relevant to current events, but I think the story of the Adams family is fascinating, especially since John Adams typically gets short shrift in history classes:

The vigorous and free-thinking Adams family is certainly one of the most interesting in American history. So how does author and historian Richard Brookhiser recount the sweeping saga of what could be considered America’s first political family, across four tempestuous generations, in his latest book, America’s First Dynasty, the Adamses, 1735-1918?

As Brookhiser sees it, the crown of the dynasty, so to speak, passed from John Adams to his son John Quincy Adams, to his son Charles Francis Adams, and finally to his son Henry Adams.

Brookhiser begins with John Adams, born in Braintree, Mass., in 1735, to a farming family that was neither powerful nor famous. Young John wanted to be a simple farmer like his father, but old John Adams (1691-1761) forced him to go to school.

John Adams is one of history’s most underrated statesmen and presidents. He was also remarkable as a political philosopher and wrote voluminously on the topic.

The second most famous Adams, the learned John Quincy, a great writer as well as a great statesman, receives fair treatment by Brookhiser.

Born in Braintree, Mass., in 1767, John Quincy led an active life, serving in the Massachusetts state Senate and the U.S. Senate, a professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard, secretary of state, and sixth president of the United States.

J.Q. had a significant career after he left the presidency, serving 17 years in the House of Representatives, where he was an outspoken enemy of slave holders and their congressmen. Brookhiser quotes extensively from the diaries of John and John Quincy, providing his readers with spicy comments about their contemporaries.

Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), J.Q.’s son, served in the Massachusetts legislature from 1831 to 1836. He was U.S. minister at London from 1861-1868, including the crucial Civil War years; and married the youngest daughter of Peter Chardon Brooks. He was instrumental in persuading the British government not to grant formal recognition to the Confederacy. Had it done that, Britain and France would likely have offered to arbitrate the conflict, and that in turn would almost certainly have split the American republic.

Charles Francis’s third son, Henry Adams, would, among other things, become one of the greatest historians the United States has ever produced; his nine-volume History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison is still regarded as a classic. Henry wrote that the “progress of evolution, from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.”

(as retrieved on Dec 1, 2006)

America's Political Families

So I guess it's inevitable that politics will run in familes, and there's probably both pros and cons to that. I'm not going to worry too much about it. I really only care about the Presidency, because of the symbolic status of the office.

But in interest of being complete, here are a list of most of the prominent and/or recent political familes of America as described in this excerpt of an article (Nov 12, 2006) about Senator Joe Biden's son being elected to state attorney general. (Some families aren't mentioned, most notably the Roosevelts, the Rockefellers, and the Harrisons.)

The father, Joe, has been a U.S. senator since 1973, and is now eyeing the presidency. The son, Beau was elected Tuesday as attorney general, considered the second-most powerful post in Delaware's government.

John Adams was president from 1797-1801. His son, John Quincy Adams, was president from 1825 to 1829.

William Howard Taft (right), president from 1909 to 1913. His son and grandson served in the U.S. Senate, and great-grandson Bob Taft has been governor of Ohio since 1999.

Prescott Bush (left) of Connecticut was in the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1963. His son, George H.W. Bush, was president from 1989 to 1993 and his grandson, George W. Bush, has been president since 2001. Another grandson, Jeb Bush, has been governor of Florida since 1999.

John F. Kennedy was president from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. His brother Edward of Massachusetts has been in the U.S. Senate since 1963. A third brother, Robert, was U.S. attorney general and in 1968, a presidential candidate when he was assassinated. Two of Robert's sons have served in Congress -- Patrick was re-elected last week in Rhode Island -- and Robert's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was Maryland's lieutenant governor from 1995 to 2003.

Bill Clinton was president from 1993 to 2001. His wife, Hillary, is in the U.S. Senate representing New York and is eyeing a presidential run.

Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee was in the U.S. House and Senate. His son Albert Gore Jr. also was in the U.S. House and Senate and served two terms as vice president.

Richard Daley was mayor of Chicago from 1955 to 1976. His son, Richard M. Daley, has been Chicago mayor since 1989.

Mario Cuomo (right) was New York's governor from 1983 to 1995. His son Andrew was elected New York attorney general last week.

John Culver of Iowa was in the U.S. House and Senate. His son, Chet, was elected Iowa's governor last week.

John Gilligan of Ohio was governor from 1971 to 1975. His daughter, Kathleen Sebelius, has been governor of Kansas since 2003.

Robert P. Casey Sr. was governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995. His son, Robert Casey Jr., was elected to the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania last week.

(retrieved Dec 1, 2006)


The Wonderful Club of Dynastic Governments

Here are the countries that have political dynasties.

First, the single-party states:

Supposedly Syria is a parliamentary republic, but although citizens "vote", they do not have the right to change their government. The old president, Hafiz al-Assad was followed by his son, Bashar al-Assad in 2000.

In North Korea, the Premier is the nominal head of government, but real power lies with Kim Jong Il, the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, Chairman of the National Defense Commission and Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army. Or "Dear Leader" if you're short of breath and trying to curry favor. His father and political predecessor, Kim Il Sung, held the title of "Great Leader."

And in Cuba it's looking like Fidel Castro's brother Raúl is taking over.

And don't forget pre-war Iraq ... Sadam Hussein's heir was his son, Qusay.

Then, slightly less objectionable, we have the absolute monarchies

Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, Kuwait, Lesotho, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

But I guess all all the countries above don't really count for comparisons to the USA because they're not really democracies. (Note that I'm not going to talk about constitutional monarchies ... the citizens of such countries were enlightened enough to take away all the powers of the royal families, except for maybe the power to be tabloid sensations.)

So here are countries that have elected dynasties (what's with South Asia?):

India: Jawaharlal Nehru, (the first prime minister of India, '47-'64), had a daughter, Indira Gandhi, (prime minister '66-'77, '80-'84), who had a son, Rajiv Gandhi (prime minister, '84-'89) whose wife Sonia Gandhi was the leader of the party who won the majority in '04, but did not become prime minister because of concerns about her Italian birth. Instead she named the current prime minister. Her son, Rahul Gandhi, is a current member of Congress and probably a future prime minister. Note, none of them are related to Mahatma Gandhi.

Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto served twice as prime minister ('88,'93-'96). Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was president and prime minister from '71 to ' 77

Bangladesh: The current prime minister (since '01) is Begum Khaleda Zia, the widow of Ziaur Rahman, the president from '77-'81. A former prime minister is Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the eldest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first leader of Bangladesh.

Sri Lanke: Solomon Bandaranaike, and his wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike were prime minister for a total of 21 years ('during 56-'00). Their daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga was president for another 11 ('94-''05) and appointed her mother as prime minister for her last term as such.

Indonesia: the unlikely named Megawati Sukarnoputri is its first female president ('01-'04) and the daughter of its first president, Sukarno ('45-'67).

Philippines:the current president, Gloria_Macapagal-Arroyo, is the daughter of former President ('61-'65) Diosdado Macapaga

Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. The current prime minister (since '04)? His son, Lee Hsien Loong.

Azerbaijan: the current president, Ilham Aliyev, followed his father, the last president ('93-'03), Heydar Aliyev

Antigua and Barbuda: Vere Cornwall Bird and Lester Bird, prime ministers '81-'04.

Seriously ... is this a group of governments we want to emulate? I for one don't want to join their club.

No More Dynasties in the White House

The Presidency of the United States is the fundamental symbol of American democracy. Not only does the President lead the nation in foreign affairs, but he or she also represents the ideals and concepts that created the longest-lasting government in the world.

Practically every American school child is told that "you too can grow up and be President!" Obviously that does not happen, but the sentiment illustrates the freedom of every American citizen to participate in governing themselves. It is telling that our main mythic heroes are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Growing up, I was taught that America was different than the rest of the world. It was not a corrupt crony-ridden country controlled by an oligarchy. No, no, it was a free nation where even a peanut farmer or an actor could become the President. I am proud of that fact.

So in 1999, I was astounded at the popularity of a certain George, son of George. The last time America was faced with a father-son George leadership-combo with weird accents, they revolted. I was sure Americans wouldn't vote for someone just because he had the same name. When I realized I was wrong about that, I said, well, how bad can it be? At the time, my objection to electing a son to the father's position was mostly philosophical.

However, the Bush administration has taught me that not only is it symbolically important for Presidents to be freely chosen from amongst the people, but there are pragmatic reasons to avoid concentrating power into the hands of the same group of people. Governments controlled by the few find it hard to change their course when mistakes are made and inevitabily devolve into cronyism and corruption.

As 2008 draws near, I fear that a member of another presidential family will run for that high office. My plea to Ms Clinton (and possibly to Mr Jeb Bush as well) is to resist the siren call to power. If you are elected, it sends a bad message to Americans and to the world. Avoid the ethical pitfalls to a presidency tainted by a previous president's associates. You are not serving America if you run for the Presidency, only yourself. If you truly feel the altruistic call to serve your country, there are many better ways for you to do so.

To my fellow citizens, I urge you to find other worthy candidates to vote for. In a nation of 300 million, surely we can find potential presidents untainted by family.

This blog will continue with information about dynasties and articles culled from the Interweb by writers better than I. Hopefully it will convince you to vote for a president with an unique name.