At home with the family Bush, America's dynasty (still) in waiting

The Bush Family
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The Independent US

Like the powdered fops and bitter exiles who restored the monarchy in early 19th-century France, America's least-likely power dynasty, the Bush family, came to Austin on election night hoping to savour sweet revenge for the defeat of President George the father by witnessing the coronation of President George the son.

Like the powdered fops and bitter exiles who restored the monarchy in early 19th-century France, America's least-likely power dynasty, the Bush family, came to Austin on election night hoping to savour sweet revenge for the defeat of President George the father by witnessing the coronation of President George the son.

Little did they know what they were in for.

By the time the night was over, the gourmet food had gone untasted, the court musicians had been heard only distantly, the parties had been cancelled and a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty had caused them a level of discomfort they could barely gauge or comprehend.

"We haven't been up this late in years," lamented Barbara Bush, the former first lady. And that was before the drama had really begun.

Someone asked George Snr how this compared with being whipped by Bill Clinton in 1992. "Hell of a lot worse," he groaned. And his son hadn't even lost, or at least not yet.

The family had gathered in the late afternoon: George Snr and Barbara in from Houston; their son Jeb, the Governor of Florida, haring over to Texas after doing his best to get out the vote in the state that was to cause such palpitations and uncertainty later on; George W's other siblings, Marvin and Dorothy; Jeb's son, George P, seen as a possible future successor of the family's power mantle, and a host of spouses, cousins and close family friends.

As the first polls closed, at 6pm local time, the whole brood arrived by motorcade at the Four Seasons hotel where they planned to eat dinner and watch the returns. George W looked nervous but calm, giving a quick thumbs-up to reporters before ducking inside. His father and mother were at his side.

Just 50 minutes later, however, with the networks giving Florida to his rival, the Bushes barrelled straight back out again and returned to the governor's mansion. Visibly shaken, they said nothing. Their dinner was left untouched.

"He preferred to be at home," a family friend, Gordon Johndroe, said of the candidate.At 8.30, the Bushes allowed reporters a glimpse of themselves, sitting slumped in armchairs around a fireplace. A quietly defiant George W said he did not believe the returns in Florida or Pennsylvania, also chalked up by Gore.

At the same time, he seemed to be resigning himself to defeat. "My whole future isn't on the line," he said. "I'm not worried about me getting through it." He suggested he was more worried about how his parents would take the noble efforts of their beloved son if they were not ultimately successful.

And that was the last we saw for more than 16 hours. The night brought no victory speech, and what messages there were to give were delivered by underlings. Yesterday lunchtime, Mr Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney expressed confidence that they would eventually win. The Restoration is far from dead, but the celebrations have been put on ice for now.

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