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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Administration Shows It's Good to Keep It in the Family

In U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, governing is a family affair.

Two weeks ago, the State Department announced that Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter, would become a deputy assistant secretary of state. Her husband, Philip Perry, left the Justice Department to become chief counsel for the Office of Management and Budget. There, Cheney's son-in-law will join OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr., whose sister, Deborah Daniels, is an assistant attorney general.

That's just the beginning. Among Deborah Daniels's colleagues at Justice is young Chuck James, whose mother, Kay Coles James, is the director of the Office of Personnel Management, and whose father, Charles Sr., is a top Labor Department official. Charles James Sr.'s boss, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, knows about having family members in government: Her husband is Senator Mitch McConnell, and her department's top lawyer is the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Everybody knows the Bush administration is famously loyal. One reason Bush aides are like family is because some of them are family. Ken Mehlman, the White House political director, regularly calls his younger brother Bruce, an assistant commerce secretary, to get his input. "He's a great adviser -- I trust him like a brother," quips Ken.

Deputy White House press secretary Scott McClellan recently found himself in front of the microphones introducing a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, Mark McClellan. Scott called Mark "my older, smaller brother," and Mark replied: "Thanks, my larger brother."

The Bush administration bloodlines begin at the top and flow through the rank and file. Secretary of State Colin Powell is the father of Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

All of this makes for some blending of the governmental and the familial. At Sunday dinner, the three James officials compare notes from their various corners of the administration. "It's a bit of a dinner debate club," Chuck James says.

Some appointments have brought questions of nepotism, but administration officials say the appointees are qualified in their own right. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher denied a report that the deputy assistant secretary position was created for Elizabeth Cheney and said she is "a very highly skilled individual."