Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A Dynasty… Just Like The Medicis, but Tactless

Kevin Phillips used to really piss me off. Back in the 1990’s he’d get on NPR or some talking-heads show to excoriate Bill Clinton and the Democrats like all the other pompous and smug right-wingers – Bill Bennett, George F. Will, William Kristol, et al – and he did it with a professorial and studied manner of condescension that made me want to just slap him.

But in the last few years Phillips has had a come-to-Jesus conversion and has turned his wrath on Bush, and not just George W. In his new book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, he takes it all the way back to before the start of the 20th century to include the partnership between George H. Walker and Samuel Bush and up through the business career of Senator Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. Bush, all the way to the present day. Joan Walsh in Salon.com takes a look at it.

Phillips … has written a dark, sprawling, provocative, sometimes almost paranoid book — which is not to say that its most troubling conjectures can’t be true. He assembles a wide array of evidence to show how, over four generations, the Walker-Bush clan has been on the front line of the rise of the military-industrial-intelligence complex, the ever-growing national security state that its fourth-generation heir just happens to run today, like his father before him. Various Walkers and Bushes have popped up, like patrician Forrest Gumps, in hot spots all over the globe in the last century — pre- and post-revolution Russia, pre- and post-Hitler Germany, in Cuba before and during the Castro regime, and of course everywhere in the Middle East. (The Bush family has been loosely involved with Iraq, Phillips shows, since George Walker joined Averell Harriman’s efforts to rebuild the Baku oil fields in the Soviet Caucasus, a few hundred miles north of Iraq, against the wishes of the U.S. government.) (more)

It’s rather troubling; the more so because, as Phillips notes, the current president has become a beacon for the apocalyptic side of the Christian Right:

“American Dynasty” makes you realize, if you hadn’t already, why Bush is the ideal Christian-right president. He fits the Fundamentalist Project’s criteria for the type of person who’s attracted to this rigid brand of Christianity: He was a rootless (albeit wealthy) ne’er-do-well who couldn’t quite find his way in business, fought a drinking problem and then turned his life around, with the help of Billy Graham, when he adopted a fundamentalist approach to Christianity. He was almost literally saved by Jesus, and where fundamentalists and Southerners never trusted his father, they embrace George W. as one of them. He repays them with coded biblical imagery in his speeches, from his constant references to “evil” to his public reliance on the power of prayer, plus a Middle East policy that seems tailor-made to Christian right “end times” dogma.

There’s more, including a nod to the tinfoil hat side with the allegations – largely unproven – that Prescott Bush actively supported the Nazis; that Skull and Bones was actively involved in the Bay of Pigs, and that George H.W. Bush was a CIA “asset” working with anti-Castro Cubans (that one doesn’t pass the laugh test).

What is most interesting is how Phillips became so disillusioned with such a white-bread Republican family. He discusses that here, including some advice for the Democrats, plus some other rather startling conclusions as well (remember the “October surprise” of 1980).

The bestseller lists are full of books that take turns slamming one side or the other – Al Franken and Michael Moore, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly – but this is from the man that wrote The Emerging Republican Majority in 1969 might just have what it takes to make America finally take notice of who’s in charge here.

[Update: I orginally titled this post A Dynasty…Just Like the Corleones, but that was inaccurate; the Corleones were fictional.