There is no shortage of books deriding the rank deceit, moral bankruptcy and gross incompetence of the Bush administration. But to appreciate fully how far George W. Bush has fallen in the eyes of a vast segment of his own party, one must turn to the writings of former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips. His latest book, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (Viking, 462 pages, $26.95), is his most damning yet. In it, Phillips traces how right-wing Christian fundamentalism founded in "rapture" theology and biblical literalism, America's energy dependence on a diminishing world oil supply, and the rise of the "credit-industrial complex"—the global financialization of the nation's runaway debt—are converging to pose the greatest threat to the republic in its 230-year history. In addition to waging a holy war for oil in the Middle East on credit, Bush has embraced the Christian right to wage war on reason: denying the catastrophic effects of global warming, prohibiting stem-cell research on human embryos, and promoting creationism disguised as "intelligent design" in the public schools. In his previous book, American Dynasty, Phillips made readers' eyes glaze over when he compared the presidencies of Bush père and fils to the restoration of the Stuarts in 17th-century England. But in American Theocracy, Phillips draws historic parallels between the United States and the fallen empires of Rome, Spain, the Dutch Republic and Great Britain that are not only clear but chilling. In each case, the decline of these former world powers was preceded by blind devotion to outdated or declining energy resources, a sense of national exceptionalism stoked by religious fervor, and a crippling national debt.
Another must-have reference on perfidy in the Bush White House is Mark Danner's The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History (New York Review Books, 163 pages, $11.95), a collection of essays previously published in The New York Review of Books. Although the memo has never received proper attention in the American news media, it remains perhaps the best documentary evidence history will ever have that the Bush administration was doctoring intelligence on Iraq by July 2002, three months before Congress authorized military force and eight months before the invasion began. The memo, which records a top-secret meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers, including the head of British spy agency MI6, also makes clear that Bush cooperated with the United Nations only because (and only so far as) the support of the British government demanded it. The text of the memo, as well as supporting documents, is included in an appendix, making Secret a handy pocket guide to a controversy that will only grow in relevance as Election Day 2006 nears.
Kevin Phillips appears at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm Friday, April 7. Free. Looking Glass Bookstore presents Mark Danner at First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th Ave., 227-4670. 7 pm Friday, April 7. Free.