Politics by other means

Yesterday’s New York Times Book Review carried a striking letter to the editor by Jonathan Bush, the younger brother of the first President Bush and the uncle of the current president. The letter takes issue with the October 10 puff piece by one Ted Widmer that the Times Book Review ran on Kitty Kelley’s Bush family biography: “Here comes the son.” Jonathan Bush writes:

I and members of my family are incredulous that The New York Times would have printed a two-page review of a book, supposedly about our family, written by Kitty Kelley.
The book, a 700-page compilation of falsehoods and slander, consists for the most part of quotations and commentary lifted from other writers, themselves also quick to seize upon the protection of New York Times v. Sullivan to write a litany of lies about not only our father and mother and the two presidents, but the entire family as well.
As in any big family there will always be one or two disgruntled exiles, and, not surprisingly, Kelley has used these for some of her material. That they have in some cases retracted the statements doesn’t seem to have fazed Ted Widmer, your reviewer, who cites them anyway.
Abundantly clear is the fact that the timing of the release of this book, so close to the election, was clearly designed to enrich Kelley and Doubleday, her publisher. They have greedily published for large monetary gain a book designed by lies, distortion and fabrication to hurt and cause emotional distress to a large, closely knit family.
Might one assume that, by giving this trash such a prominent review, the editors of the Book Review could have been trying to give a slight boost to the candidacy of J. F. Kerry?
The matriarch of the family, our mother, Dorothy W. Bush, was as kind and generous as any mother, ever, in this great country.
Our father, Prescott Bush, lived by a motto that we all learned: ”Moderation in all things.” Shame on Kelley for suggesting otherwise of those dear people by attempting to smear their memory. President George H. W. Bush, as fine a man as ever walked, and Barbara, his beloved wife of 60 years, and their son the president, George W. Bush, and Laura, our kind and compassionate first lady, are all falsely victimized by this woman.
Also, she has taken aim at many less prominent members of our family. Perhaps some of us should be grateful that we weren’t left out, though, with our inclusion, undoubtedly some of those readers who buy this vicious stuff will believe, because they want to, that some of this drivel is true.
I read The Times Book Review regularly; thus, I was truly surprised and deeply offended to see your review, which treats this rotten book seriously. It should have been dismissed with a brief paragraph such as this: ”Kitty Kelley has written yet another piece of slanderous trash. If you really think you hate the Bushes, then read it. But don’t buy it, borrow it.”
Answer this, if you will: How in the world will able, dedicated people want to serve in elected office if laws in this country permit the likes of Kelley to spread her slander at will while bragging that she has been sued but never lost a case?
A friend recently said, ”I read a book about this dysfunctional family of liars, cheats and swindlers, and guess what, they had names just like yours.”
I am distressed for my brother and my sister-in-law Barbara, examples to the world of devotion and family love and strength and courage, as well as for my other brothers and my sister, and for the memory of my late mother and father. For, regardless of the veracity, false accusations, insults and insinuations still hurt. And you, editors of my beloved Book Review, without which no weekend would be complete, should be ashamed, deeply so, for giving this mountebank such unwarranted attention.

Lest you think that Jonathan Bush slights the merits of Kelley’s book, consider the review of the book by Sally Bedell Smith (Smith provides some of the wretched details regarding Kelley’s book that Jonathan Bush refrains from reiterating): “Kitty Kelley’s bad magic.”
And who, you may ask, is Ted Widmer? As far as I can tell, his chief claim to fame is his past service as a speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Perfect!


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