- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

They were robust, cheerful, upright. And there were many of them.

The Bush clan came to town yesterday — fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, toddlers — to salute one of their own.

“What a welcome,” former President George Bush said softly, just before stepping onto the sunlit podium at the U.S. Capitol, minutes before his son President Bush took his second oath of office.

The elder Mr. Bush smiled broadly. With wife Barbara — patriotic in a red wrap, blue jacket and white gloves — he joined the assembled statesmen and guests to bear witness to his son’s second inauguration, both as a former president and a father.

First lady Laura Bush — clad in winter white and drawing comments such as “the ideal first lady” and “gorgeous” from press observers — held the family Bible as her husband of 27 years recited the solemn words that ushered him into a second term.

She was flanked by their daughters, Jenna and Barbara.

The sisters charmed many news correspondents, who called the twins adorable, spirited and possibly chilled as the wind blew, bands played and speeches continued.

“Thanks for coming, Mom and Dad,” Mr. Bush said to his parents during the celebratory lunch that followed the ceremony.

“Barbara and Jenna, I love you dearly,” the president continued, then thanked his family for its “unconditional” love.

“It’s an important part of keeping perspective in the nation’s capital,” he said.

The quintet of parents, wife and daughters, which comprises the core of the president’s family circle, is just the beginning, though.

On Wednesday, what the White House could describe only as “extended family” gathered in the East Room for an official portrait before the inaugural events commenced.

There were more than 100 of them — including the president’s three bothers, a sister and 18 children sitting cross-legged on the rug.

The Bush family has produced two presidents, one senator, two governors — and maybe several presidential aspirants, if rumors of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s White House potential persist. And then there is twentysomething nephew George Prescott Bush and Pierce Bush, a freshman at Georgetown University.

Bush fans call this throng “family.” Bush critics prefer “dynasty,” a term that does not sit well with the president, who rejects notions of East Coast aristocracy in favor of down-home simplicity.

“At times, the president is reluctant to talk about his family. He wants to be his own man. But he also revels in it,” noted John King, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, yesterday.

The Bushes are, he said, “the nation’s only first family. And they are truly close.”

But Bush solidarity extends beyond blood, some say.

“If you’re on the Bush team, then you’re family, too,” observed Fox News’ Shepard Smith.

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