In 1953, Albert Gore Sr., John Kennedy and Prescott Bush all entered the Senate together. The repercussions are still being felt 60 years later, as George Prescott Bush revs up for his first run for office in Texas, and the fourth man to be christened Joseph P. Kennedy begins his first term in the House.
Together, these would give us six senators, two governors, three presidents, two vice presidents and boatloads of drama: Bush vs. Gore; Gore vs. Gore; Jack, Bob and Teddy; George, George and Jeb. When Bush 43 and Al Gore went to the mat in the Florida recount, it was because of Prescott Bush and Al Sr. In 2001, when Bush 43 named the Department of Justice building after Robert F. Kennedy, the room was filled with people who were or had been in politics because of Prescott Bush and John Kennedy. All laughed when Joe III's father, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, read from a speech by his father, Robert F. Kennedy, about how he reached power at such a young age: "I worked hard, I studied, I applied myself, and then my brother was elected president of the United States."
Al Gore Sr. had entered the House in 1938, 10 years before the birth of Al Jr. Kennedy entered the House in 1946 at 29, more or less straight out of the Navy. And 12 years after his father took his first government job under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Prescott Bush went to the Senate from his career as a banker, four years after George Herbert Walker, a war hero much like John Kennedy, left Connecticut for a new life in Texas, with his 2-year-old toddler, George Walker, in tow.
In 1960, Kennedy was elected president, making his brother Bob attorney general. He gave in to his father's insistence that his younger brother run for his old Senate seat. In 1963, Jack was murdered; Bobby moved to New York and ran for the Senate. He ran for president in 1968 and was also assassinated. In 1972, Gore Sr. and the elder George Bush each lost a run for the Senate. Young Al later won his father's old seats in both houses, while George H.W. held two high government posts, ran for president in 1980 and wound up as Reagan's vice president. The same year, Ted Kennedy ran against Jimmy Carter, and lost.
In 1988, Bush ran to succeed Reagan and won. Al Gore made his first run for president, losing to Michael Dukakis, who then lost to Bush. Bush lost the next cycle to Bill Clinton, whose vice president was Al Gore, who immediately began running for president. In 1994, George W. Bush ran for governor of Texas, and won as his brother Jeb was losing in Florida. Jeb ran four years later and won. In 2009, Ted Kennedy died, having served 46 years in the Senate, and the next year his son Patrick retired.
For a brief moment, all three families were gone, if not forgotten, until the 2012 election, when Ted's grandnephew won.
The Gores seem to have burned out after two generations. The other two families seem to be trying to extend their power over four generations of high public service. It's something no one has done in this country before. (Henry Adams had fame, but he never had power, and this was viewed as his family's method of backing offstage.)
It's never been done, which doesn't mean it can't happen. Bush vs. Kennedy in 2024, or thereafter? The Class of '52 in the Senate may have still more cards to play.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."