So Caroline Kennedy, holder of a fabled name, wants to take over the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton, holder of another fabled name — but not if Andrew Cuomo, son of a prickly politico also named Cuomo, has anything to say about it. And Jeb Bush, holder of a recently soiled name, has decided that this isn’t the greatest time to join the Senate from the great state of Florida, even if his dad, the founder of America’s most recent presidential dynasty, says Jeb would be a boffo president someday.
Why should anyone be surprised that politics is a family business? We’re used to it in the arts.
Theater and the movies positively wallow in it, from the Booths to the Royal Family itself, the Barrymores (I have a soft spot for the 2007 movie Music and Lyrics, with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, a piece of cinematic fluff that seems to me to catch a lot of the spirit of the old screwball comedies) to all those hard-to-sort out Baldwins and Arquettes and Sheens.
Writers, too. There are the Buckleys (I don’t care which way your politics lean; Christopher’s blog at The Daily Beast is one of the funniest things on the Web these days) and, as Rose City Reader reminds us, the Amises, and here in Oregon, William and Kim Stafford, and … you get the idea.
I’m reminded of all this familial overfamiliarity not just by the news but also by my current reading project, Candice Millard’s 2005 book The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, about Teddy’s near-fatal journey to the wilds of central South America in 1913 and ’14, after he’d lost his Bull Moose third-party bid for a third presidential term in 1912. (Another fellow named Roosevelt, of course, carried us through and past the Dust Bowl days.)
They don’t make presidents like Teddy anymore, which is a good and a bad thing. He was an imperialist meddler and a guy who longed to get into a good war; an impetuous can-do sort with all sorts of contradictions: One of our earliest and most important conservationists, he was also a voracious big-game trophy hunter. Teddy was an outsized personality, and John Alexander’s spot-on parody of him as a nut case charging up the stairs and burying stiffs in the basement in Arsenic and Old Lace brings tears of laughter to my eyes every time I see it.