When called to discuss how the Depression affected people, Bush answered: "Look. People are poor because they are lazy." A professor said Bush "came across as totally lacking compassion, with no sense of history, completely devoid of social responsibility and unconcerned with the welfare of others."
Kitty Kelley makes George W. Bush look bad. But did she really get the goods?
Kelley, known for her gossipy best-selling biographies of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan, savages Bush -- and the entire Bush clan -- in The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.
Published by Doubleday Broadway and on sale today, the book dives into the mud of the Bush family's private lives. Kelley reports, among other bits of dirt, that Bush snorted cocaine well into adulthood, that his wife, Laura, smoked and sold marijuana in college, that the president may have been unfaithful to Laura, and that the president's mother objected to his engagement as a young man to a girl whose stepfather was Jewish.
The book relies heavily on anonymous or secondary sources for many of the juiciest allegations, however, and one top source -- Sharon Bush, the former wife of presidential brother Neil Bush -- has flatly denied she said the things attributed to her.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the book, already a best-seller on Amazon.com, is "garbage that was discredited, disavowed and dismissed years ago."
Here are the highlights -- or perhaps lowlights -- on President Bush:
Kelley anonymously quotes two of Bush's former classmates at Yale as saying he snorted cocaine.
One classmate claimed to have sold cocaine to Bush. The second recalled "doing coke" with Bush.
What troubled other classmates more than the drugs, however, was the future president's generally unimpressive character.
"Georgie, as we called him then, has absolutely no intellectual curiosity about anything," said Tom Wilner, a 1966 Yale grad. "He wasn't interested in ideas or books or causes. He didn't travel; he didn't read the newspapers; he didn't watch the news; he didn't go to movies."
Kelley goes on to describe a couple more decades of carousing by Bush. Sources who worked with him on a Senate campaign in Alabama in 1972 said he "liked to sneak out back for a joint of marijuana or into the bathroom for a line of cocaine." He would show up late for work, "prop his cowboy boots on a desk, and start bragging about how much he had drank the night before." When drunk, they said, he was "bitingly sarcastic and pugnacious."
Kelley quotes Bush's former sister-in-law, Sharon Bush, as saying Bush snorted cocaine with one of his brothers at Camp David when his father was president. "Not once," she quotes Sharon as saying, "but many times."
During his junior year at Yale, Bush became engaged to his girlfriend in Houston, Cathryn Lee Wolfman. Their engagement was announced in the Houston Chronicle: "Congressman's Son to Wed Cathy Wolfman." But Bush's mother, Barbara, was "rankled" that Wolfman's stepfather was Jewish, a source told Kelley.
"She couldn't abide the fact that Cathryn's stepfather was Jewish," said former family friend Cody Shearer. "'There'll be no Jews in our family,' she said."
The first lady
At Southern Methodist University in 1968, the future Laura Bush was known as "a go-to girl for dime bags of marijuana," Kelley writes.
"She not only smoked dope," claims Robert Nash, described by Kelley as an Austin public relations man who was a "friend of many" of Laura's classmates. "But she sold dope."
Early in their marriage, Kelley writes, Bush and Laura would fly down to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and "enjoy heavy pot-smoking parties."
During Bush's first campaign for president, Kelley writes, a woman in Austin claimed to have been a call girl during Bush's days as a Midland, Texas, oilman. "Supposedly, she was 'the other woman' in his life, or one of them,' Peck Young, an Austin political consultant, told Kelley. "She set herself up in a hotel here and was prepared to sell her story to the highest bidder. . . .Word got around town, and she claimed she got a visit from some men who made her realize it was better to turn tricks in Midland than to stop breathing."
Running for president
His mother called him the "chosen one." But his father was "dumbfounded" by the groundswell of support for his son in the runup to the 2000 election.
The elder Bush was "totally perplexed as he watched his party go down on bended knee to proffer its nomination," Kelley writes. "He was the last to recognize George's success in retail politics. This was the son he least expected to succeed in anything, let alone national politics."
A club for whites only
Bush belonged to the Rainbo Club, an "exclusive hideaway in East Texas for Dallas millionaires," Kelley writes.
Bush was party to a lawsuit filed by a former employee who challenged his firing. In a deposition, Bush admitted the club was "whites only."
Out of his league at Harvard
At Harvard Business School, class of 1975, Bush would sit in the back, "chewing tobacco and spitting it into a dirty paper cup," recalled one unidentified classmate.
Another classmate, Steve Arbeit, said Bush was "so inarticulate it was frightening. The reason I say that he is dumber than dumb is not that I saw his test scores or his grades; it's the comments he made in the classes we had together that scared me."
Macroeconomics professor Yoshi Tsurumi recalled showing the Depression-era movie "Grapes of Wrath" to help the class empathize with the poor. Bush asked, "Why are you going to show us that Commie movie?"
When Tsurumi called on Bush to discuss how the Depression affected people, Bush answered: "Look. People are poor because they are lazy." Tsurumi said Bush "came across as totally lacking compassion, with no sense of history, completely devoid of social responsibility and unconcerned with the welfare of others."
In 1968, Bush's father placed a call to a businessman pal, who called an influential Texan pol, who called another guy who called another guy. Result: Bush got into the Texas National Guard and avoided going to Vietnam.
Although Bush scored the lowest possible passing grade on pilot aptitude, he was accepted into the Air National Guard.
"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment," Kelley quotes Bush as saying. "Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." (Kelley's endnotes do not specify where she got this quote.)