Feeling queasy?

The GOP campaign braces itself for the Kitty Kelley treatment as the details in her new book on the Bush dynasty come out.

Published September 8, 2004 2:09PM (EDT)

She's famous for her scandalous portraits of iconic figures, and her victims know she has no interest in being kind to the powerful.

So George W. Bush has good reason to feel queasy about the latest work of Kitty Kelley, the muckraking celebrity biographer who has turned her poisoned pen on America's preeminent political family.

"The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty" is not scheduled for publication for another week, but details of its revelations are already circulating on U.S. Web sites and in gossip columns -- much to the delight of Democrats and the chagrin of Republicans.

They include claims that Bush snorted cocaine at the Camp David retreat when his father was president, and may have helped a girlfriend obtain an abortion.

Though not regarded as a serious biographer by any stretch, Kelley is a bestselling author. The initial print run for the book is 600,000 copies, and anticipation about its contents sent a frisson through Republicans at last week's convention.

And after a highly effective campaign to smear the wartime record of John Kerry, the Kelley biography is seen as an occasion for Democrats to sling some mud against a Christian president who claims to stand for conservative values.

The week also promises a fresh examination of Bush's activities during the Vietnam War. CBS 60 Minutes is due to broadcast an interview Wednesday with a former lieutenant governor of Texas, Ben Barnes, speaking out for the first time about his shame in arranging Bush's assignment to the Air National Guard, which spared Bush from being sent to Vietnam.

Kelley's publicists say her book will minutely examine Bush's service record, including the so-called lost year when he transferred from Texas to Alabama, ostensibly to work on a Republican Senate campaign. The book is said to dig behind the jealously guarded public facade of the family to reveal "the matriarchs, the mistresses, the marriages, the divorces, the jealousies, the hypocrisies, the golden children, and the black sheep."

It is uncertain what effect the revelations will have on Bush's reelection effort. He acknowledged his misspent youth during the 2000 elections -- including a 1976 arrest for drunken driving, raising doubts among conservative supporters but not seriously damaging his campaign. He has admitted that alcoholism nearly ruined his marriage but claims to have turned over a new leaf in 1986 after becoming a born-again Christian.

While some revelations will be familiar to Americans, Kelley says the 700-page tome has extraordinary new detail. For the first time, there are allegations that Laura Bush, the first lady, might also have experimented with cocaine.

By Suzanne Goldenberg

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