In 1991, President Bush bristled at a flurry of news accounts that questioned the business ethics of three of his sons. Bush said the news media should be ashamed of the ''muckraking'' they have done into his children's business affairs. ''All of a sudden, for strange reasons people are trying to suggest that these kids are less than honest, and it really burns me up,'' Bush said. ''There's no validity to it. They go around and around the track trying to find dirt, and I don't like it,'' he said. ''The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing.'' Bush did not cite specifics. "The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing," Bush complained. "They [the boys] have a right to make a living, and their relationships are appropriate," added a White House spokeswoman in June 1992.
I guess it seems only fair to take a look at his family. Over the years stories have periodically surfaced chronicling the individual business antics of the ex- president's sons -- each riding comfortably through life in the slipstream of his father's growing power and influence.
Although a handful of good reporters have diligently been digging through business records for years, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family's.
Instead of criticizing reporters, the ex-president might more wisely begin listening to those in government who have watched his sons with mounting worry. A years ago, I sat across a desk from a Secret Service agent who had been assigned to Bush-family security. I rattled off the names of a half-dozen questionable characters who had found their way into business deals with the Bush boys. How had these characters been allowed to get even close to the ex-president's sons?
The agent slumped back in his chair and sighed. "We warn them," he said in a whisper. "But that's all we can do. We can't stop these kids from associating with someone they want to be with. All we can do after warning them is to sweep these guys with metal detectors when they come around."
What follows is a list of what should be a fathers concerns about his sons.