With American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush Kevin Phillips looks at the Bush-Walker family going back four generations. Phillips uses the term “dynasty” advisedly to mean a fact, not a political theory. He claims that dynasties “tend to show continuities of policy and interest-group bias” and there is a consistency in their behavior (Phillips 2-5). This dynastic tendency need not be a negative thing.
This is not unique to the Bush-Walker family nor to the Republican Party; similar claims against the Kennedy family that has had political influence throughout the twentieth century; the Roosevelts, Harrisons and Adams had similar power structures that lead to each family having two family members as President of the United States. The problem, Philip writes with the Walker-Bush family is the type of behavior it has engaged in to achieve its goals and the effects this behavior has had on the United States. The author begins his book by looking at the pattern of behavior that has developed within the extended Walker-Bush family.
Phillips claims there is a history use of family influence “in arranging or smoothing over difficulties in the military service” of George W. , George H. W. , and Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current President. However he fails to mention what any of these “difficulties” were. He claims that the family’s interest in the petroleum dates back nearly a hundred years when Samuel Bush had financial connections with Standard Oil. “This interest spans the twentieth century and continues until today. This interest has included a relationship with the now defunct Houston-based oil company Enron since the mid-1980s.
This time period included time when George H. W. Bush was Vice-President and President. Phillips contends that the Bush-Walker family has long been involved with the United States public policy and has a vested interest to promote five areas to enhance their wealth and power: involvement in the United States investment banking, the increasing size of the military-industrial complex, the ballooning of the CIA, the attempts to have the United States control the world’s oils supplies, and a close alliance between the United States and Great Britain (Phillips 2).
In fairness to Phillips he does point out that affiliations should not be transformed into “a latter-day conspiracy theory. Phillips provides a long list of behavior by the Bush family that smacks of impropriety. The family has engaged in eight decades of involvement with the petroleum industry. Throughout this time they used their influence and wealth to further their economic and political aspirations (Phillips 246). Prescott Bush engaged in business that included selling of arms to Germany as late as 1938.
In 1942 his corporate directorships had strong links to Germany even though we were at war with Germany, were publicly exposed. George W. H. Bush has a history of covert activity that includes support of the Bay of Pigs, as Vice-President he engaged in clandestine arms operations that included Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. He is alleged to have been instrumental in negotiations with Iran that led to an agreement that Iran would not release the American hostages until after the November presidential election.
He was heavily involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal and secretly armed the Iraq army from 1984 until 1990 when he abruptly changed sides when Hussein invaded Kuwait. George W. Bush has followed in his father’s footsteps. His first 2000 election was disputed when he won by a handful of votes in Florida where his younger brother was governor. He has invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, and willingly denied Constitutional rights of individuals in favor of his own agenda. His accumulation of presidential powers actions has threatened the very fabric of the United States Constitution with his challenges to the separation of powers.
Phillips has extensive experience and qualifications to be examining this issue. He received an undergraduate degree from Colgate University, studied at Edinburgh University, and studied law at Harvard Law School. He served as an adviser to Richard Nixon during the 1968 campaign and later served as a White House strategist. He has been a political and economic commentator for more than thirty years and has written nine books on politics and economics in the United States. He is a regular contributor to NPR, PBS, The Los Angeles, and The Wall Street Journal.
During his youth he was a member of the Republican Party but became an Independent when he became aware of the direction the United States was taking in the late 1970s and 1980s (Phillips flyleaf; Kevin Phillips). One wonders what effects Phillips’ decision to leave the Republican Party has had on his political beliefs. It is easy to imagine that someone who loses faith in an institution would strike out against the institution with fanaticism. However Philips does not appear to do this.
The combination of playing an important role in the Republican Party and his subsequent withdrawal from the Republican Party appears to have put Phillips in a neutral position. Instead of having an agenda to promote he appears to be interested in the truth. Phillips writes in a simple, clear, and readable style. He provides extensive endnotes and an index. What he does not provide is a bibliography; this would be a useful tool for the student, reader of popular political science, and anyone who is trying to make sense of current United States’ politics. At times American Dynasty does read like a conspiracy theory.
One is overwhelmed not by the nature of the activities, but by the sheer volume of activities and the consistent manner members of this family have behaved. One is tempted to dismiss the book as the ranting of a paranoid fanatic. However Phillips appears to have written a thoroughly researched accurately reported and well documented. This book is disturbing precisely because of this. If it were clearly false it would be easy to dismiss it. At the very least Philips has written a book that should cause concern about the manner in which our President engages in politics.
At most he has written an indictment again George W. Bush and the entire extended family that has had its hand in too many questionable activities to be innocent of wrongdoing. Notes Phillips, Kevin. American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush (New York: Penguin Group, Viking, 2004). “Kevin Phillips: Political Historian. Speakers of Substance: Leigh Bureau. N. d. [Cited 30 Mar. 2007]; available from the World Wide Web: <http://leighbureau. com/speaker. asp? id=125>.
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