Book review

In recent years Kevin Phillips has written several populist studies of American society and politics.

His latest work, “American Dynasty,” gives us a view of four generations of the Bush family, their rise to power, influence, and wealth as well as the many traits that they shared in common.

Phillips notes that the Bushes were one of several major establishment families who gained power and connections from the massive mobilization of private industry and government during World War I.

He also observes that in addition to “its dynastic roots in the early years of the military-industrial complex, the Bush family and circle were quietly important in the mid-century emergence of the U.S. intelligence community.”

Phillips believes that the Bush family has come as close to a ruling aristocratic dynasty as Americans have ever seen.

Unfortunately for our country, “Four generations of building toward dynasty, however, have infused that Bush family hunger for power and practices of crony capitalism with a moral arrogance and backstage disregard of the democratic and republican traditions of the U.S. government.”

Phillipsr is critical of the media that have “tended to use kid gloves with the family.” Very few have ever described the rise of this family and “commentators have neglected the thread … of special interests, biases, scandals (especially those related to arms dealing) and blatant business cronyism.”

For example, few are aware of Prescott Bush’s (George W’s grandfather) work on investments in Germany that led to his “corporate directorship links with wartime Germany in 1942.”

The Bush family connection with the energy industry is another thread which runs through all four generations and is very important to the two Bush presidencies.

Both presidents had served as oil executives and George H.W. as vice president chaired the Reagan administration’s task force on deregulation and regulatory relief.

“Through it, both Bushes, during multiple years in the White House, and six years in the Texas State House, recast their political and financial relationship with the energy industry.”

Out of this “recast” relationship came a two-decade link between the Bushes and Enron Corp.

“What makes the Bush-Enron connection more significant is the dynastic aspect, the mutual support over two decades, two generations, and two presidencies,” Phillips writes.

Enron was a major contributor to Bush campaigns, and its lobbying and influence helped it to obtain legislation favorable to its own interests.

Clearly, one of the most ominous chapters of the book is Phillips’ depiction of George W. Bush’s close relationship with the extremist religious right.

The current president is the only Bush to have closely embraced religious fundamentalism. The author asserts that during the 2000 general election, the religious right was willing “to keep quiet to help Bush.”

George W. Bush was reported, following 9/11, to have “confided to friends, that he felt chosen by God to lead this nation in its response,” a response which he later referred to as a “crusade.”

Unlike previous presidents who have simply had cordial relationships with the religious right, Phillips believes that Christian extremists now recognize George W. Bush as their leader. Bush has returned their favors by giving them a large number of “top personnel and policymaking jobs.”

“After four generations of connection to foreign intrigue and the intelligence community,”

Phillips discovered, “plus three generations of immersion in the culture of secrecy (dating back to the Yale years of several men in the family) deceit and disinformation have become Bush political hallmarks.”

As we look ahead to the November elections, the book gives us a clear idea of what to expect if George W. Bush retains the presidency.

Such a victory by extremist right-wing forces and the continued rule of a person with roots immersed in secrecy, intelligence, deceit and disinformation – according to Phillips – could put several more nails in the coffin of American democratic traditions.

The author can be reached at