Off The Record: Many of our presidents have reigned as American royalty

September 27, 2004|HERB BROCK

Other than the Fourth of July, a presidential election is America's biggest celebration of our freedom as an independent, democratic republic, free of the shackles of monarchs.

But did those little skirmishes back in the late 1770s and in 1812 really set us free? Technically, yes. Emotionally, no.

Ben, Thomas, James and other framers of the Constitution would roll in their graves at how many of us behave like America is still a colony. All that hard work to ensure that we are the opposite of a monarchy and so many Americans behaving like royal subjects.

Sure, we still abide by their handiwork, but while our heads think democratic, many of our hearts feel royal. As much as we talk about how great it is that we are not subjects of a king or queen, a lot of us bow and curtsy to our own version of British royalty. Sometimes, the red, white and blue we wave looks more like a Union Jack than Old Glory.


The fact is, many of our presidents have reigned as American royalty.

Britain has had numerous royal families rule the island, like the House of Tudor and the House of Windsor. Check out the competitors in our presidential election this year. It's the House of Bush vs. the House of Heinz-Kerry, or maybe it should be called the five Houses of Heinz-Kerry, abodes that Teresa owns and where John gets to live.

Although they're built on bucks rather than bloodlines, the American royal houses resemble their British counterparts in many ways. Their occupants have a lot of power, prestige and money. And they have subjects who revere them, commentators who report on them and paparazzi who annoy them.

The House of Bush is much older than the House of Heinz-Kerry. While Kerry has the accent and bearing of an aristocrat - yes, commentators say that while he thinks like a no-class Frenchman, he sounds like an upper-class Englishmen - he's nouveau royal. The Bush dynasty has been built on the political careers of King George I (George Herbert Walker Bush) and King George II (George W. Bush), but it goes back to Sen. Prescott Bush, the dad and granddad, respectively, of the two presidents.

Democrats despise George II and generally don't like the whole House of Bush. They hate him for many reasons, but topping the list is the fact that he is rich, gives tax breaks to his own wealthy class, does the bidding of his courtiers - his oil biz buddies - in the Middle East, and got where he is today due to breaks and favors given by his daddy and his friends.

But many members of the Party of the Common Man have an uncommon love of American royalty themselves. They go prostrate in adoration for members of the House of Kennedy and the House of Clinton.

Remember Camelot and the Kennedys? The love for King John and Queen Jackie and their short, three-year reign more than 40 years ago exists to this day, as does the worship of Princes Joe, Bobby, John John and Count Teddy and the seemingly thousands of other members of the Kennedy royal family.

Built by millionaire Joseph Kennedy - an Irishman who may have developed his designs for constructing his own royal family when he served as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain - the House of Kennedy could have had even more kings had it not for the tragic death of Princes Joe and Bobby. But there are plenty more Kennedys who could wear the crown some day.

The House of Clinton differs substantially from the Houses of Kennedy and Bush. The House of Clinton was constructed through political power, not financial clout. But while King Bill and Queen Hillary have a lot more detractors - almost as many as George I - than the Kennedys, those who love them do so with tremendous passion and allegiance and reverence.

There have been other American royal families. The House of Roosevelt produced King Teddy and King Franklin and also Queen Eleanor. The House of Rockefeller has produced as many princes of politics, like a former vice president and former governor and a current senator, as captains of industry.

And there likely will be more American royal families in the future, as well as the continuation of existing houses.

It's no secret that Princess Hillary has her sights set on becoming queen, but this time by her own election to president, not marriage to one. Look for Prince Jeb of the House of Bush to be a future candidate for president. And don't dismiss Princess Chelsea as a possible candidate.

With a country of nearly 300 million people and some of the brightest minds and compassionate hearts in the world, it would seem that there would be huge reservoir of many, many potential presidents out there. But maybe the gene pool of possible presidents is small, or maybe we're only looking in one pool - where members of our royal families are swimming.

But should our fawning over and fascination with royalty surprise anyone? After all, millions of us got up early one morning in 1981 to see Princess Diana marry Charles, and millions of us stayed glued to our tubes 16 years later to watch the endless coverage of her death and funeral.

And on Nov. 2, millions of us will take part in an exercise that is the most important reflection of our existence as a democracy and vote in a presidential election. But probably half or more of us will cast our ballots for a king.

The king is alive. Long live the king.

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