Published August 13, 2002
NEW YORK – George W. Bush comes from a serious, blue-blooded pedigree -- but there's another side to the first family.
Some members of the clan hobnob with Hollywood's biggest stars and the fashion world's most influential designers.
The president's niece, Lauren Bush, has graced the cover of Glamour and W magazines. As a correspondent for Access Hollywood, cousin Billy Bush interviews celebrities like Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow. And nephew George P. Bush, who has been compared to pop heartthrob Ricky Martin, made his modeling debut at the opening of the Tommy Hilfiger store in Manchester, England, in April.
President Bush seems to prefer kicking around in cowboy boots and talks in Texas-isms, furthering his regular, down-home guy style. So does having his extended family rubbing shoulders with elite society help or hamper his image?
"Having celebrity relatives does to some extent undercut his image as a down-home guy," said Frank Bruni, author of the Bush biography Ambling Into History. "Whether we're talking about the ones now working in fashion and entertainment or, even more importantly, his father and his brother Jeb, [it] shows that the Bushes are an extremely fortunate, influential family."
But being born into a powerful lineage isn't uncommon in the history of American leaders, Bruni pointed out, and neither is having ties to Hollywood.
"Reagan of course was a product of Hollywood," Bruni said in an e-mail interview. "Clinton had very close ties with Hollywood."
But aside from some high-profile Republican stars, Bush maintains a distant relationship with celebrities, despite his family connections to the creative community.
"I don't think Bush is that closely tied, in the context of presidential politics, with Hollywood," Bruni said.
And political experts suggest Bush keep it that way.
"The only reason, from a political standpoint, people would care about a president's family would be if they could help you either raise a crowd or generate enthusiasm, which would turn into votes," said Rich Galen, who pens an online political column called mullings.com.
In fact, said Galen, extended family members tend to embarrass presidents. "There is often one in the crowd that you wish would go to Tanzania and stay there for eight years," he said.
The only glamorous family member who may help Bush's run for a second term is George P. Bush, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's son. During his uncle's first run for president, the handsome law student made People magazine's 100 Most Eligible Bachelors list and helped court the Hispanic vote by appearing at the Young Hispanic Republican Association in Arlington, Va. His mother, Columba, is Mexican and the Hispanic vote is considered increasingly critical to win the presidency.
But despite his recent turn on the catwalk as a model for Tommy Hilfiger, George P. Bush is keeping a low profile. "I've always been encouraged by my family to study," he told the London Daily Telegraph. "I have been steered away from anything too glamorous."
As for the other celeb-oriented family members, they are exceedingly modest about their ties to the leader of the free world.
Billy Bush fiercely downplays his family relationships. His contract with Access Hollywood includes a provision that prohibits them from mentioning his connection to the president, according to The New York Times. He also declined to be interviewed for this article.
Lauren Bush, while far from distancing herself from her famous family, avoids exploiting her position, according to those who've worked with her.
"She is the most down-to-earth, most realistic girl," said W magazine's fashion director Joe Zee, who dealt with Lauren during the shoot for their cover. "She talked about her school and her prom. She's more down-to-earth than the other models I work with."
Lauren is fast becoming an American icon of style, but are editors seeking her out simply because of her name?
"Does the Bush name help? Absolutely," said Zee. "But she wouldn't have gotten where she is if she didn't have other things. I mean how many covers do you see Chelsea Clinton on?"
With George W. Bush's own daughters cited for underage drinking, and his niece -- Jeb Bush's daughter, Noelle -- getting arrested for allegedly trying to fill a false prescription, the celebrity side of the clan is the least of the president's familial worries.
Yet, experts say the president's image can be affected by his family -- for better or worse.
"There's the old adage -- you judge a man by the company he keeps," said Bruni. "And that company includes the company that we don't choose but that we inherit: family."