Noemie Emery takes an interesting look at some of America’s political families. Very few American families can count having members who were president of the United States; even fewer can count having two members. So far, the Adams and the Bushes (one could count the Roosevelts) are the only families to reach this milestone. The Kennedys have tried have been thwarted either by assassination or not having been nominated by their party.
These “presidential dynastic” families pay a huge price for this privilege. Many of those who are firstborn or who become the leading candidate after the firstborn has left the scene usually are not the ones who want to become president; usually it is their father’s dream. Some of these “fathers” were president themselves, as in the cases of John Adams and George Bush, or were politicians who wanted more power, like Joseph Kennedy, Sr. and Albert Gore, Sr. Many of those chosen by fate to fulfill their father’s dream really did not want to, and many were not really capable, either. Some could not handle the pressure and sought relief in drugs or alcohol. Some even died from substance abuse or committed suicide to escape their lives.
The Roosevelts were an oddity. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore’s son, Theodore, tried to live up to his father’s expectations, but he was not really that enthused about being president. He was more geared to being a soldier. Franklin Roosevelt wanted to be president, and many people were confused in thinking that he was Theodore Roosevelt’s son. This did not make Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. very happy. Franklin’s wife, Eleanor, was also a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt and she worked to get her husband elected. Their children, though, have gone down in history as not living up to their parents’ reputation.
Emery spends more time with the Kennedys, Bushes, and Gores than with the Adams and the Roosevelts. Her description of the contest between Gore and Bush in 2000 and today is very enlightening. Emery seems to count Jeb Bush out in running for president, but he should still be counted as a possible Republican nominee. This book is highly recommended to those interested in presidential history and the “presidential dynastic” families.
Noemie Emery has written for the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Women’s Quarterly, and National Review. She is the author of Alexander Hamilton: An Intimate Portrait (1982) and Washington: A Biography (1976).