In the classic film "She Done Him Wrong," a dapper young Gilbert Roland encounters Mae West for the first time. "I've heard a lot about you," he says. "Yeah," she shoots back, "but you can't prove it."
Neither, it seems, can Kitty Kelley.
From the beginning of "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," Kelley strains at the leash and bares her teeth. Indeed, she makes her most incendiary charge before the first chapter, quick work even for an attack biography. Toward the end of her 10-page author's note, she quotes Sharon Bush, the bitter ex-wife of President Bush's brother Neil, saying that George W. Bush and his brother Marvin "did coke at Camp David when their father was President, and not just once either." For good measure, Kelley repeats the cocaine allegation several hundred pages later, this time slightly amplified ("not once, but many times") and again 200 pages beyond that. She also asserts that President Bush used cocaine as an undergraduate at Yale and when he served in the Texas National Guard.
If true, these are serious charges. But are they true? Based on the sources Kelley cites, it is impossible to know. Sharon Bush has since publicly denied making the allegation to Kelley, saying she never saw her former brothers-in-law engage in such activities. The author undermines the charge, perhaps inadvertently, when she states elsewhere that President Bush's conversion to born-again Christianity in April 1984 "led George to give up tobacco, alcohol, and drugs at the age of forty" -- three years before he went to Camp David when his father was president. Kelley's other sources are an unnamed Yale classmate, who supposedly told his tale to the writer Erica Jong; an unnamed Yale graduate student; "those who worked with George" on a political campaign in 1972; and retired 1st Lt. Robert A. Rogers, who served 11 years in the National Guard and has written about its procedures. Rogers speculates to Kelley that Bush may have ducked a physical examination during his military service in 1972 to avoid substance abuse detection. But Kelley has admitted that Rogers never met Bush and has no direct knowledge of Bush's activities in the National Guard.