Pappy and Poppy
              By MAUREEN DOWD in Whore City

          Jackie Kennedy understood the power of myth. After her husband died,
          she planted the shimmering fable of Camelot. And she told her shattered
          brother-in-law Bobby to read Edith Hamilton's "The Greek Way."

          Bobby was transfixed by the great families of Greek mythology. He recognized
          the hubris of the House of Atreus, with doom seeping down through the generations.

          As Ms. Hamilton wrote of the family of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Electra:
          "It was an ill-fated house. . . . A curse seemed to hang over the family, making men sin in
          spite of themselves and bringing suffering and death down upon the innocent as well as the guilty."

          As Aeschylus wrote of the cursed house, "before the old wound can be
          healed, there is fresh blood flowing."

          America broke with the Old World, but we never lost our taste for ruling families
          and their melodramas. Washington now is a cat's cradle of them.  The Bushes.
          The Clintons. And our fascination with the Kennedys has survived four decades,
          even with all the revelations about the ugly side of the glam dynasty.

          The Camelot books keep coming. And opening Friday is "13 Days," a
          Kevin Costner movie about the Cuban missile crisis, in which Jack and
          Bobby seem very young and very scared facing down the Red Menace.

          The Kennedys were the thrilling, self-destroying dynasty. The Bushes are
          the dull, self-preserving one.

          "The Kennedys flew too close to the sun. The Bushes just ask for more
          pork rinds," says my friend Evan Thomas, who wrote "Robert Kennedy: His Life."

          The Bushes hate the D-word, as they call it. They think it implies easy
          inheritance of high offices without striving.

          W.'s not into Greek mythology. Grandiose introspection wouldn't be his
          style. And the fact that he spoke of our NATO allies "the Grecians" during
          the campaign is a giveaway he's not reading Edith Hamilton.

          The Bush campaign did have a subtext of revenge and sibling rivalry. But
          the Fates never seemed to hover ominously. "The Kennedys had demonic
          problems, fabulous women, deep human flaws," Evan Thomas says. "The
          Bushies act like they're in a frat house."

          His book offers a gripping portrait of Bobby, wracked by fears after
          J.F.K.'s death that he caused it by pursuing the mob, despite his father's
          warnings not to (and there was also that little matter of stalking Castro); he
          is also terrified about being blackmailed by J. Edgar Hoover and smeared
          by L.B.J., and haunted about his own possible assassination.

          The only torment for Jeb, when it appeared he might have failed to work
          through his ambivalence in time to deliver Florida to W., was whether he
          would get a Thanksgiving drumstick.

          The dynasties have always moved in opposite directions. The Bushes were
          trying to de-Anglicize and lose the silver spoon while the Kennedys were
          trying to Anglicize and seize it. The ambitious adventurers wanted to seem
          like diffident Waspy aristocrats, and vice versa.

          Prescott Bush, a Wall Street banker and senator from Greenwich, had the
          pedigreed tennis-anyone family Joe Kennedy frantically emulated. The
          Kennedy patriarch, a brilliantly ruthless businessman and legendarily
          successful bootlegger, had the buccaneering background the two
          white-bread Georges would frantically emulate.

          Even as raffish Kennedys laundered their past, infiltrating Wasp havens
          like Hyannis Port, marrying Miss Porter's School debutantes named
          Bouvier, giving white-glove teas for female voters during campaigns, effete
          Bushes roughened their edges, emigrating to macho West Texas as
          wildcatters, marrying Midland librarians and Mexican students, having
          barbecues for supporters.

          The working-class Democrats liked leaders with pretensions to royalty.
          The royalist Republicans, needing to appeal to Joe Sixpack, had to trade
          the country club and martini image for Buds and burgers.

          The Bush dynasty may be more blithe because neither Prescott nor Poppy
          ever pushed his sons into politics. Pappy, as J.F.K. once jokingly referred to his
          stage father ("I could feel Pappy's eyes on the back of my neck," he wrote a pal),
          demanded his heirs go into politics, and would not take no for an answer.

          It was purely Greek that, after his stroke, one of the few words that old
          Joe could speak in response to good news or bad was "No." As the
          tragedies rained down upon him, he could only moan, "No-no-no-no."

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