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The House of Bush

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  • robalini@aol.com
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com The House of Bush Rep. strategist Kevin
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2004
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist

      The House of Bush
      Rep. strategist Kevin Phillips on the Bush family's hunger for power
      By Eric Bates
      January 5, 2004
      Serving up secrets and lies

      Listening to Kevin Phillips talk about politics, it's easy to mistake
      him for a populist firebrand from the 1890s. He rails against the
      growing inequality of wealth in America. He bemoans the unprecedented
      influence that private corporations hold over public institutions. He
      attacks the "smug conservatism" of George W. Bush and accuses the
      president of attempting to establish a family dynasty better suited
      to royalist England than to democratic America.
      But Phillips is no left-wing demagogue. He's not only a lifelong
      Republican, he's also the guy who literally wrote the book that
      became the blueprint for the party's dominance of presidential
      politics. Phillips served as the chief political strategist for
      Richard Nixon in 1968, and, in The Emerging Republican Majority, he
      formulated the "Southern Strategy" that helped hand the White House
      to the GOP for a generation.

      In his new book American Dynasty, Phillips lays out his almost
      visceral distaste for what he calls "the politics of deceit in the
      House of Bush," accusing the administration of dishonesty and secrecy
      that would make Tricky Dick blush. He traces the course of Bush's
      family over the past 100 years, detailing how they sought
      influence "in the back corridors" of the oil and defense industries,
      investment banking and the intelligence establishment. Elites, not
      elections, put Bush in power. "I'm not talking about ordinary lack of
      business ethics or financial corruption," says Phillips, who recently
      registered as an Independent for the first time. "Four generations of
      building toward dynasty have infused the Bush family's 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." As a result, he says, "deceit and
      disinformation have become Bush political hallmarks."

      Is Bush really any worse than Nixon?

      What makes the Bush family so different -- and, in many ways, so
      dangerous -- is that they've created a dynasty. The second Bush
      administration is a political restoration, not unlike the English
      Stuarts in 1660 or the French Bourbons in 1815. In the last election,
      the Republican Party turned to the eldest son of the Republican who
      got the boot eight years earlier. That's what this country fought a
      revolution to get rid of in 1776. Nobody thought that there would be
      another royal house, with a couple of Georges.

      Royal house? Isn't that a bit of a stretch?

      The family has made a big deal of the notion that it is descended
      from royalty. Burke's Peerage even got involved in the last election,
      saying that Bush won because he had the most royal ancestry. The
      Bushes eat this stuff up. They don't need democracy -- they feel
      entitled by ancestry. For them, the presidency is something that can
      be won with a Supreme Court decision.

      Still, what's so bad about a son succeeding his father as president?

      This type of dynasty is antithetical to the American political
      tradition. The presidency is now subject to inherited views,
      inherited staff, inherited wars, inherited money, inherited
      loyalties. I'm not talking about particular policies -- I'm talking
      about a unique evolution of a corrupting institutional process in
      American governance.

      If this is a dynasty, who's next? Jeb?

      He's the logical choice. If they decide there needs to be a gap, you
      might have Jeb's son, Neil P., in twenty years. Given Hillary's
      position in the polls, it could go back to the Clinton's first.
      People are obviously willing to play the relatives game right now.

      How are the Bushes viewed within the Republican Party?

      There was always a sense that George H.W. Bush was somebody who
      didn't owe anything to voters -- he couldn't even win an election for
      Congress. His push came from people behind the scenes, from the
      Establishment. Both his grandparents were heavily involved in wartime
      finance and military contracting during World War I -- they were
      there at the very start of the military-industrial complex -- and his
      father was a U.S. senator who directed an oil-services company like
      Halliburton. They had ties to big money, big oil and the Eastern old-
      boys network.

      Bush's enemies in the party were people who were insulted by the way
      he played on his privilege and connections. Richard Nixon was one;
      Ronald Reagan was another. Donald Rumsfeld didn't like him, either --
      he and a lot of others in the Ford administration thought Bush was a
      lightweight. In one of Rumsfeld's greatest miscalculations, he put
      Bush in charge of the CIA, thinking that would ice Bush's political
      future. Instead, it was like throwing Bush in the briar patch. There
      had been rumors for years that Bush had been recruited by the agency,
      perhaps even when he was a student at Yale. As director, he became
      near-family and a business associate of Saudi princes. He funneled
      arms to Saddam Hussein and then, as president, fought the first Gulf
      War to oust Saddam from Kuwait. And he was implicated in scandals
      involving the Iran hostages and BCCI, the rogue bank that financed
      clandestine arms deals.

      What does that have to do with the current administration?

      By the time George W. came in, he was a product of a family that was
      more embroiled in the Middle East than almost any other American
      family -- to say nothing of any other major American political
      family. The administration has not been interested in turning over
      any rocks that represent Saudi Arabia, because the Bush family has
      been in bed with them for so long. In addition, many of the people
      surrounding the president are former retainers of his father. They
      wanted to nail Saddam because he got away from them before. That's a
      central element of restorations: the settling of old scores.

      And the continuation of old favors?

      Enron is a prime example of that. No other presidential family has
      made such prolonged efforts on behalf of a single corporation. This
      was the first scandal spread out over two generations, and it was the
      biggest in terms of size. Enron was the nation's fifth-largest
      company when it went belly up -- it had a lot more impact on the
      economy than the small oil companies in the Teapot Dome scandal. Ken
      Lay needed government favoritism, and the Bushes supplied it. George
      W. made calls to drum up business for him in Texas, and George H.W.
      made Lay the chief planner for a G-7 meeting, which helped Enron get
      approval for major overseas projects. Thanks in large part to the
      Bushes, Enron received more than $7 billion in government subsidies.

      Religion played a major role in W's victory. How does his
      relationship to the religious right differ from, say, Reagan's?

      In moral terms, Reagan wasn't exactly running the Bluenose Express --
      he was the first American president to be married to two different
      Hollywood movie stars. He knew how to put on a good show when he was
      talking to the religious right, but there wasn't a whole lot they
      were going to get out of him. And when it came to Bush's father, the
      religious right thought he was some guy with striped pants who came
      from these schools where their fathers had been janitors. They didn't
      relate to him at all.

      George W. is another story. He's a guy who's been born again, who
      believes in a lot of what the religious right does. He's Reagan
      quadrupled in terms of his holier-than-thou, I'm-the-Messiah
      attitude. He sort of fell into national politics serving as his
      father's representative to the religious right in 1986. It was right
      around the time that he was finding religion himself -- and the time
      that fundamentalists and evangelicals, having made their big splash
      with Reagan, were beginning to institutionalize power within the
      state Republican parties and a national framework. George W. spent
      enormous amounts of time with these people, and he learned how to
      walk the walk and talk the talk. He is able to be so strong with the
      religious right because he got inside their whole setup. He can
      figure out how much to give them to get them on his side and keep
      them under control. For the first time in history, the president of
      the United States is the acknowledged leader of the religious right.

      How has that role shaped his approach to the war on terrorism?

      Based on his support among fundamentalists and evangelicals, I would
      say that a slight majority of the people who voted for him probably
      believe in Armageddon. After 9/11, that allowed him to think of
      himself as somebody who has an almost God-accorded role. He sees
      himself as an anointed leader, and his speeches evoke religious code
      words: evil, crusade, the ways of Providence, wonder-working power.
      One biblical scholar who analyzed Bush's speech to the nation on
      October 7th, 2001, announcing the U.S. attack on Afghanistan,
      identified a half-dozen veiled borrowings from the Book of
      Revelation, Isaiah, Matthew and Jeremiah.

      Besides religion, how has the Republican Party changed since your
      days with Nixon?

      In some ways, you could say that Reagan was a halfway point. Reagan
      was tired of government programs, but he didn't want to dismantle the
      New Deal -- he just didn't want those programs to get out of hand.
      George W. grew up in a family where they never needed a safety net in
      the course of the twentieth century -- and they weren't interested in
      anyone who did. He believes private charity will take care of the

      Reagan also didn't believe in preemptive war. He talked tough, but
      there wasn't this whole theology in place, like we've seen in the
      last couple of years, that says, "We're entitled to fry anybody we

      Can Bush be defeated?

      History shows that restored dynasties eventually overdo it and tank
      themselves -- but it usually takes more than four years. The French
      Bourbons were restored in 1815 and got the heave-ho in 1830. The
      English Stuarts were restored in 1660 and ejected in 1688. The
      problem is, the other side gets dismasted by the restoration and
      can't mount an effective opposition.

      What should Democrats do to beat Bush?

      The economy is obviously still iffy, and Bush could sag hugely if
      Iraq turns into a civil war. But I also think the Republicans are as
      ideologically overextended today as the Democrats were in the 1960s.
      They're vulnerable on religion. John McCain actually ran against all
      of George W.'s games with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Bob
      Jones University in 2000, and he didn't do badly. He didn't take a
      goddamn poll -- he just went out there and said all the stuff the
      Democrats don't have the guts to say.

      I think half of the Democrats are afraid of their own shadow. That's
      why Howard Dean has been so successful. Even if he made mistakes, he
      had something to say, and he had the courage to say it. And that'll
      go a long way when you've got so many Establishment politicians who
      basically just look for whatever the received wisdom is and put a
      little maraschino cherry on it. If Dean and Al Gore can get the
      Democrats to face the Republicans' obvious weaknesses, maybe we'll
      see a real blueprint. But if it's emerging, it's still very quiet.

      What would that blueprint look like?

      You have to focus on the Bush family itself. They have made the
      presidency into an office infused with an almost hereditary
      dishonesty. There's so much lying and secrecy and corruption to it.
      Just look at the way Neil and Jeb and Marvin and George W. have
      earned their livings, with all these parasitic operations: profiting
      from their political connections, cashing in on favors from big
      corporations and other governments. It's a convergence of arrogance --
      the sense that you don't have to pay attention to democratic values.
      It's happening again with Halliburton. They can't help but let their
      old cronies in there to make buckets of money off the war.

      Their own arrogance provides a handle for their defeat. If the
      country does not come to grips with what Bush has done, then we may
      lose what we value about our republican and democratic government.
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