Jeb Bush’s failed bid for the Presidency in 2016 provides the perfect time to discuss a timeless classic with a little more comfort. Kevin Phillips, who was dubbed in 1995 by one of my Political Science Professors at the University of Florida as “the smartest Republican around,” is widely viewed as the chief architect of the 1968 Nixon “Southern Strategy” which for 20 years remade the Presidential Electoral map. Beginning in that fall semester in 1995, I began vociferously reading anything written by Phillips, something I continue to do up to this day.
Phillips always an intellectual and somewhat erudite analyst of politics developed a deep distrust for the Bush family first as a Republican political operative and then as a non-partisan electoral and cultural analyst. By the end of George H.W. Bush’s term in office he was firmly established as a critic of the Administration’s economic policies and distrustful of the direction the GOP was headed. In multiple media roles, including for CBS News and US News & World Report he would lay out the intellectual case against Bush’s policies while objectively analyzing the flaws in the Clintonian way. In an era where polarizing politics and shout shows were beginning he was a welcome diversion from the partisan hackery that dominated the 1990s airwaves.
After taking a sabbatical from politics writing the excellent The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America which talked about the Anglo-American relationship and Lineage, Phillips penned American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush towards the end of George W. Bush’s first term.
In this book, Phillips lays out a devastating historical case against the Bush family. Four generations of deceit, indifference to people’s problems and shady business dealings. Phillips clearly lays out his opinion that the entire family operates with a sense of entitlement. Phillips also look closely at the oil industry, the Bush ties to that industry and correctly forecast the isolationist/nativist drift of the GOP that now ten years after the publication of this work dominates a whole wing of the party. Phillips details at length the Bush ties to Enron and Halliburton among other Texas based corporations. The CIA and arms trade connections to Bush family are widely discussed as well.
Phillips takes the mainstream press to task in the book. He states that all of his information was publicly available yet the media for whatever reason choose to ignore much of the information.
Phillips expanded on the Bush theme with American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century which came out after the Terry Schiavo debacle and the involvement of Jeb Bush and Florida Republicans.
The work is ironic in the sense that just under forty years earlier, it was Phillips who has helped convinced Nixon who had run as more of a moderate to liberal Republican in 1960 the value of cultural conservatism when appealing to disaffected Democrats in the Sun Belt and western states. But the passage of time saw Phillips vision of a Republican Party that appealed to religious voters but continued to be a mainstream national party turn into a regional one dominated by religion.
This book is really in many ways a sequel to American Dynasty. Focusing on the Bush family and the deepening ties between President George W. Bush and religious conservatives, Phillips makes a case that religion dictated Bush’s most controversial moves in the White House. The scaling back of environmental regulations, Middle Eastern wars, social policy and even economic policies were largely dictated by the alliance between the White House and religious leaders.
Phillips even theorizes that Bush himself had replaced the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as the most influential religious figure among conservative voters nationally. Much of the narrative revolves around a cult of personality that Bush developed while policy makers around him used his communication skills and comfort with religious voters to push a dangerous agenda.
The case is also made that the Bush family connections to oil sheikhs in the Middle East which has ushered in a generation of constant warfare in the region involving American troops is connected to religious roots and a shared vision of nation-states as Petrocracies (I would argue that this has happened now with Vladimir Putin’s Russia as well). Militarism is a fundamental aspect of petroleum fueled nations where the need to create constant pressure points and warfare is a means to keep the ruling class in power. Saudi Arabia fits this description to a tee.
A mounting Federal debt was a bi-product of the Bush wars but as Phillips argues, the religious orientation of the Bush Administration made this a non-concern as the perils borrowed money has no relevance in a budding theocracy.
While the title of Phillips book might seem over the top, the narrative is not. Like anything else written by Kevin Phillips, this book is highly recommended.