Kevin Phillips - American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush

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The Bush Family: Political Degradation in the USA

Oct 24, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Intellectual discussion; Convincing; Doesn't resort to immaturity

Cons:The dynasty implications are debatable

The Bottom Line: Phillip's presents a very readable, engaging book about the Bush families rise to power and how it has influenced political thought.

What do Americans think of the Bush family?

This question arouses all sorts of sentiments in different people. Some think about George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, and all their children and grandchildren, and immediately conjure up visions of family gatherings on holidays and at the Bush retreat in Maine, reinforcing the Bush ideal that stresses the importance of family values. Others think about the Bush family in strictly political terms; concentrating instead on the two Bush presidencies and their policies, which have led to economic, military, and social decisions that have affected many Americans in adverse and controversial ways.

Most everyone knows about George W. Bush and his father because of their terms as president of the United States. But few know about the origins of the Bush family and the men and women who helped to create this politically motivated family. In this book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, author Kevin Phillips examines the people and events that helped to form the Bush family ideology, leading up to the present- day occupation of the White House and the pinnacle of world power.

Basic Contents of This Book:

This 397- page hardcover book is divided into the following chapters:


Part I: Family, Dynasty, and Restoration
1. The Not- Quite Royal Family
2. The Dynastization of America
3. The First American Restoration

Part II: Crony Capitalism, Covert Operations, and Compassionate Conservatism
4. Texanomics and Compassionate Conservatism
5. The Enron- Halliburton Administration
6. Armaments and Men: The Bush Dynasty and the National Security State

Part III: Religion, Oil, Armaments, and War
7. The American Presidency and the Rise of the Religious Right
8. Indiana Bush and the Axis of Evil
9. The Wars of the Texas Succession

Afterword: Machiavelli and the American Dynastic Moment
Appendix A: Armaments and the Walker- Bush Family, 1914-1940
Appendix B: Deception, Dissimulation, and Disinformation

Phillips begins the book with a short introduction and then turns the clock back to the Civil War era and the beginnings of the Bush dynasty. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to Samuel Prescott Bush and his wife Flora Sheldon; and to George Hebert Walker and his wife Lucretia Wear. These couples produced the offspring that led to the birth of George H.W. Bush and ultimately to the current U.S. chief executive, George W. Bush. On the other side, Scott Pierce and his wife Mabel Marvin; along with James Edgar Robinson and his wife Lula Flickinger, helped to form the genealogy that led to the birth of Barbara Pierce, wife of former president George H.W. Bush and mother of President George W. Bush. After describing the business and political opinions of these early Bush descendants, Phillips shows how the family got started in politics; the relationships to the English royal family; and the relationship of Barbara Bush to former president Franklin Pierce. In chapter 3, Phillips completes Part I of this book by discussing the Bush “restoration” to the White House when George W. Bush ascended to the American throne in the controversial election of 2000.

In Part II, Phillips examines the economics and business associations of the Bushes and Walkers. Chapter four, titled “Texanomics and Compassionate Conservatism”, spends some time talking about the Bush approach to economic policy and the origins of the so- called “compassionate conservatism” ideology. The elder Bush, George H.W., moved the family to Texas from Connecticut as part of a broader political strategy. He then got involved in many different businesses, primarily petroleum, and later got interested in politics, following in the footsteps of his father, Prescott Bush, who was a Senator from Connecticut. Chapter five examines the corporate ties of the Bush family and administration members to the Enron Corporation and Halliburton- two companies that deal in the energy industry and that the Bushes and their associates have had relationships with over the years. In Chapter six, Phillips covers the Bush family connections to the defense, CIA, and national security, discussing the Bush ties to the Germans during the World Wars and the associations of the Bushes with the federal government.

Part III moves into more specific acts, affiliations, and policies of the Bush men, particularly George W. Bush. Chapter seven talks about the rise of the Religious Right and its influence on American public policy during the reign of George W. Bush. Religious Right leaders were only lukewarm to George H.W. Bush, but they took George W. Bush under their wings right away and helped him to win the Republican primary using deceptive and dishonest tactics, ultimately leading to his victory as president. Chapter eight takes the religious influence and moves into the issue of war and terrorism, showing how GWB has melded together his religious beliefs, his ties to the oil industry, and his desire for world conquest against the “forces of evil” that exist in the modern world. Chapter nine takes the war theme and continues by talking about Iran- contra; the Gulf War; targeting of Iraq for conquest by the GWB administration; and the ensuing war on terror.

Final Thoughts:

George W. Bush, his father and mother, his grandparents, and several other generations of Bushes, Walkers, and Pierces have been part of American business and politics from the days of the U.S. Civil War. Starting out in business, the Bushes built a solid financial foundation that brought wealth and prosperity to the family, leading to the elections of several different Bush family members to public office.

Reaching the office of the presidency by both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush is a feat accomplished by only one other father-son team, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Many people thought the Kennedy family would elect two of its members to the presidency as well, but this never came to pass (at least not yet). The two Georges, however, succeeded at making their way to the White House and author Kevin Phillips feels that this “dynastization” is something to take seriously. One of the things our founding fathers fought against was the idea of a family succession of rulers, and Phillips feels the election of two Bushes goes against the American ideal and is too close to monarchy. Further, he feels that the activities and associations of the Bush and Walker families are shady and he points out the many business ties and other relationships with groups and national leaders who are known for their less than ethical political motives. Nazi Germany is one. Enron is yet another. And let’s not forget that George H.W. Bush was once the director of the CIA- a position that could have given him the top secret information and connections necessary to orchestrate the Iran- contra scandal in the early days of 1980.

Phillips is best in this book when he talks about more specific incidents and how they have influenced and shaped the thinking and policies of the two Bush presidents. To suggest that the dynasty of Bushes is going to have a negative impact on American prosperity and liberty is speculative and open to debate. We could argue all day and night over the pros and cons of having members of the same family serving as president. But some of the other areas examined by Phillips are more concrete and more interesting to think about and ponder. For example, everyone knows about the Religious Right and its endorsement of George W. Bush over Al Gore and the other Republicans who were vying for the Republican nomination back in 2000. But, as Phillips points out, this endorsement often took the form of outright deception. Such was the case back in 2000 when the Religious Right moved full steam ahead to stop John McCain from winning the nomination by spreading false rumors about him to the voters in South Carolina. Later, the Religious Right continued to exert its influence on policy after GWB was elected to the presidency. George W. Bush was, in his words, transformed into a Christian Fundamentalist after a meeting with Billy Graham in the mid 1980’s. This conversion led the former prodigal son to embrace the Religious Right, and vice- versa. GWB often consults directly with Religious Right members when faced with tough decisions regarding foreign policy, economic agendas, and social reform. Instead of relying solely on the usual team of advisors and presidential aides that other presidents have utilized to keep abreast on domestic and foreign affairs, GWB preferred to talk things over with protestant fundamentalist ministers and other religious leaders. It is unknown exactly how much influence these individuals have had on the Bush White House. But the fact that the leader of the world’s most powerful nation is basing decisions on religious doctrine should be cause for alarm or, at the very least, a valid reason to criticize and evaluate the effectiveness of the foreign and domestic policies of our born- again president.

George W. Bush’s foreign activities and his push for war against Iraq is a controversy that will never die, and Phillips agrees with its importance, but he takes a little different angle on this subject than other critics. Instead of debating about the “weapons of mass destruction” claim and the various moral issues surrounding the invasion of Iraq, Phillips examines instead the personal motives that convinced GWB to launch this war. It is known that there was an unsuccessful assassination attempt, headed by Iraq and Saddam Hussein, against GWB’s father. This is one of several personal reasons that GWB wanted to go to war. But there is also the influence of religion and business interests. We have all heard the debate over Dick Cheney’s company, Halliburton, and how Cheney’s relationship with this company played a possible role in military policy. But what about the influence of the president’s own religious beliefs? Since Bush is a self- proclaimed fundamentalist and a strong believer in Biblical prophesy, there is no doubt that his religious beliefs have influenced his decision, in some way, to attack Iraq. Phillips points out how, in GWB’s speeches, he often intermingled religion with the topic of war against Iraq and other nations. His remark that the nations of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea constituted an “Axis of Evil” is one such statement. Another example is Bush’s belief that the Biblical battle of Armageddon will be fought out (and won) somewhere in the Middle East. Yet another example is the idea that Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, is the evil Babylon mentioned in the Bible. No one knows exactly how deeply these religious beliefs have penetrated the president’s policies. But it would be na´ve to think that they have had no influence whatsoever.

George W. Bush and his father were both Yale graduates, and they were both members of the “Skull and Bones” fraternal order. Phillips touches on this fact, showing how the two Bushes have used this fraternal loyalty to reward fellow members and cover the truth when a fellow member was in trouble. This, along with the elder George’s connections to the CIA, have carved a channel of secrecy into American politics and it has had some impact on the American nation. And let’s not forget the Bush families ties to the energy industry, the military establishment, and to national security. The Enron company, and the scandal that brought it down, is probably the best- known corporation with Bush influence. But there are several other businesses run or controlled in some way by one of the Bush family that have infiltrated the American democratic process.

Kevin Phillips writes this book in a very intelligent, convincing manner. He doesn’t resort to negativity or name- calling, and I’m grateful to him for keeping things on a respectable level. I like the way he calmly and methodically presents the different chapters in the Bush family saga, showing the connections between the Bush family and other national leaders; between business and politics; and between the rich and powerful and the family’s consistent favoritism toward those who have aided them in the past. If nothing else, the Bush’s are loyal: they reward those who help them and underhandedly attack those who get in the way in their path to power and wealth.

The Bush dynasty is a phenomenon that has had far- reaching effects not only to Americans, but to many people all over the globe. The family quest for the highest level of political power- the U.S. presidency- was started more than 100 years ago and although it took time to achieve, the goal was reached not once, but twice. The Bush dynasty could continue if Jeb Bush or some other Bush family member decides to seek out the highest office in the land. And if it does, the dynasty will be further entrenched, leading to more influence, more militarization, and more blending of corporate interests and religion into American politics. Author Kevin Phillips shows how this dynasty began and how corrupt it has been over four generations as the men and women of the Bush/Walker/Pierce families have sunk their collective fangs into many aspects of American politics and life, poisoning the way we think and the American system of democracy. His book illustrates how the Bush family has grown from an ordinary working family to a wealthy and powerful dynasty that seeks to influence and control the way we live and think in the modern world of the twentieth and twenty- first centuries.

Recommend this product? Yes

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