american dynasty: aristocracy, fortune and the politics of deceit in the house of bush

Until recently, books critical of the Bush administration were rare from mainstream publishers. Bestselling writers like Michael Moore and Al Franken are fine in their own way, but these men are essentially humorists, not serious political commentators. Earnest, book-length indictments of the Bush presidencies have heretofore been the preserve of left-wing academics, paranoiacs and convicted felons. That's why it's especially noteworthy when a longtime Republican commentator like Kevin Phillips uses his substantial acumen in economic and political matters on the presidencies of Bush père et fils--and comes to such damning conclusions.

Phillips traces the Bush dynasty back four generations to expose a mind-boggling Hydra of family interests in international finance, the energy industry, religious fundamentalism, covert intelligence services and the military-industrial complex dating from World War I to Gulf War II. To say that the Bush presidencies have been the most corrupt and scandal-ridden since that of Warren G. Harding is both an understatement and an insult to Harding.

Phillips finds overwhelming evidence to implicate George H.W. Bush's direct involvement in the so-called October Surprise conspiracy of 1980 as well as the Iran-Contra affair and Iraqgate, the systematic military buildup of later Bush father-son nemesis Saddam Hussein. The signature crony capitalism and cash handouts to business associates in the form of government defense contracts and tax cuts have only multiplied under son George W. Bush, while foreign policy under George II has adopted an apocalyptic Christian-fundamentalist worldview that even much of America's religious community finds alarming.

Phillips' dense reporting of the Bush family's corporate connections coupled with his historical parallels--comparing the rise of the Bush dynasty to the restoration of the Stuarts, for instance--can be daunting, but this is a dazzling synthesis of history and political science that deserves careful attention.

american dynasty: aristocracy, fortune and the politics of deceit in the house of bush

By Kevin Phillips

(Viking, 397 pages, $25.95)