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American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush Paperback – September 7, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1ST edition (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143034316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143034315
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Paraphrasing a passage from Machiavelli's The Prince, Kevin Phillips writes, "a ruler can ignore the mob and devote himself to the interests of the ruling class, gulling the inert majority who constitute the ruled." He then says, "Borgia references aside, 21st-century American readers of The Prince may feel that they have stumbled on a thinly disguised Bush White House political memo." These pointed words would sting regardless of who uttered them, but coming from Phillips, a former Republican strategist, they have an added piquancy. In American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, Phillips traces the rise of the Bush family from investment banking elites to political power brokers, using their Ivy League network, vast wealth, and questionable political maneuvering to obtain the White House and consequently, shake the foundation of constitutional American democracy. Citing the Bush family mainstays of finance, energy (oil), the military industrial complex, and national security and intelligence (the CIA), Phillips uses copious examples to show the dangerous alliance between the Bushes' business interests (huge corporations such as Enron and Haliburton) and the formation of national policy. No other family, Phillips says, that has fulfilled its presidential aspirations has been so involved in the ascendancy of the arms industry and of the 21st-century American imperium--often at the expense of regional and world peace and for their personal gain.

It is hard to tell what offends Phillips the most: the Bushes' systematic deceit and secrecy, their shady business dealings, their cronyism, or their family philosophy that privileges the very wealthy and utterly dismisses all the rest. It is clearly all of these things combined. But at the top of Phillips' list is the dynastic nature of their family power, for it is that concentration of power and influence that strikes at the heart of our democracy. Past administrations have transgressed, albeit not so egregiously, and other political families have had dynastic ambitions. But none have succeeded as thoroughly as the Bushes. Jefferson and Madison would be horrified, and according to Phillips, we should be too. --Silvana Tropea --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Political and economics commentator Phillips (The Politics of Rich and Poor, etc.) believes we are facing an ominous time: "As 2004 began, [a] Machiavellian moment was at hand. U.S. president George W. Bush... was a dynast whose family heritage included secrecy and calculated deception." Phillips perceives a dangerous, counterdemocratic trend toward dynasties in American politic-she cites the growing number of sons and wives of senators elected to the Senate as an example. Perhaps less convincingly, he compares the "restoration" of the Bushes to the White House after an absence of eight years to the royal restorations of the Stuarts in England in 1660 and the Bourbons in France in 1814. To underscore the dangers of inherited wealth and power, Phillips delineates a complex case involving a network of moneyed influence going back generations, as well as the Bushes' long-time canny involvement in oil and foreign policy (read: CIA) and, he says, bald-faced appeasement of the nativist/fundamentalist wing that, according to Phillips, is now "dangerously" dominating the GOP. Casting a critical eye at the entire Bush clan serves the useful function of consolidating a wealth of information, especially about forebears George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush. Phillips's own status as a former Republican (now turned independent) boosts the force of his argument substantially. Not all readers will share Phillips's alarmist response to the Bush "dynasty," but his book offers an important historical context in which to understand the rise of George W.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

372 of 384 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit by being completely surprised by this book. From the title and from reading the dust jacket, it sounded a tad conspiratorial to me, as if it were trying to force a template on history that wasn't there. But Phillips's case about the worldview that the Bush and Walker families generated that determined the policies and points of view and values of both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush is close to overwhelming. I expected going into the book that it would be mildly informative; coming out, I have to say that no book that I have read on either of the Bushes (and I have at this point read pretty all of them) has been as informative and as full of insight as this one.
It is essential to stress two things. First, unlike some of the one star reviewers who obviously haven't cracked the book, Phillips means this as a warning against all political dynasties, which was, in fact, a major concern of the Founding Fathers. They were terrified of political families whose influence would extend from one generation to another. And this fear persisted well into the 19th century. Anyone doubting this should read a good biography of John Quincy Adams. Phillips points out early in the book that the Kennedy family was a bit of a dynasty (and would have been one for certain had Robert F. Kennedy not been assassinated in 1968), and he acknowledges that if Hillary Clinton were to run and win in 2008 that would also constitute a dynasty. His decision to focus on the Bush/Walker family derives from the fact that they in fact have had two presidencies in less than a decade, as well as other members of the family holding other political positions (Preston Bush was a U.S. Senator and Jeb Bush a governor). Second, this book is an exploration of many of the ills of the political system.
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296 of 312 people found the following review helpful By "kevinmackinnon2" on January 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I too first saw Kevin Phillips on C-Span discussing this book. Phillips is a lawyer and former aide to the Nixon White House, and is hardly a liberal flame-thrower. I was impressed by his level-headedness in reviewing, with a tinge of disappointment and anger, the history of the Bush family and its many years of backroom dealings with Saudia Arabia, the oil industry, and, incredibly, the Bin Laden family. (Don't forget, in the days immediately following 9-11, the ONLY commercial flights that were allowed to take off in the US were the planes carrying members of the Bin Laden family out of the country.)
This is not a shrill, one-note, Bush-bashing book, and Phillips does not appear to have an agenda or axe to grind. Accordingly, he comes across as exceedingly fair and objective. His history goes back several generations, is detailed and fully supported, and reveals the Bush family's long-standing ability to insinuate itself with, and do the bidding of, the monied class. As others, including Phillips himself, have mentioned, these are not new revelations - it is all public and available information. What seems to particularly gall Phillips is the mainstream media's laziness and lack of interest in pursuing any aspect of this tale.
Neither Al Frankin nor Ann Coulter, Phillips is to be commended for this book.
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81 of 82 people found the following review helpful By LAM on February 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
With little question, much of the reportage in Kevin Phillips' "American Dynasty" is exactly the kind of thing that the major American media should have been doing prior to the 2000 election. Phillips exposes, in startling detail, the Bush family's ties to the Religious Right, big oil and the munitions complex and, in particular, how the family's longstanding relationships with all of these have reached full flower with GW Bush. Particularly damning is the chapter on the family's and the current president's relationship to some of the more fanatical elements of the Religious Right.
With that said, Phillips does go off on some odd jags that will strike some readers as beyond the pale and a little nutty. In Phillips' hands, the sparse record around Prescott Bush's alleged dealings with Nazi Germany probably gets more attention than it should. Some of these more conspiratorial elements of "American Dynasty" keep this indictment from being absolutely first-rate, but do not ultimately derail the book's stronger elements.
Many other reviewers have dismissed Phillips as "bitter" or trying to "foment class warfare." To such criticisms, I think it's important to consider Phillips' background. Phillips is most famous for having written "The Emerging Republican Majority," and for having been a kind of political soothsayer who predicted the realignment that led to the end of the New Deal liberal coalition. Phillips made his greatest mark during a time of real intellectual ferment in the Republican Party -- when the ascendency of neo conservatism was breathing new life into the conservative movement, and real, serious ideas were being generated.
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163 of 172 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
All you guys giving American Dynasty 1 stars and bashing Phillips, let me ask ou a question: Have you actually read this or any of Phillips books?Let me as you another question; have you ever heard Phillips speak on tv? Are ou so closed minded that you automatically accept anything that does not praise as hype and bull without at least cheking it out first? American Dynasty may blow a few holes through the Bush image, but it is worth a read. I listened to Phillips last week on CSPAN and he is not a hero killer, bias without facts as some purport him to be. He not a Nixonite; he worked for Nixon that does not make him like Nixon.Like I said, at least read the book and listen to Phillips before hurling harsh reviews on the man and his work. Even if you are a strong Bush supporter, you owe it to yourself to read this book and check the data for yourself. Read the book. Listen to Phillips. Examine the facts. If they don't add up, then come back and offer your insight, but at least make it articulate. Untill then, back off!
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