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American Dynasty
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I keep thinking that each book I read is the best I've ever read, but Kevin Phillips' span of knowledge is incredible.

A blurb on the cover indicates the book is "devastating", and it certainly is.

Although much of the bad stuff writes about the four generations of Bushes is conjecture, even if one tenth or what he claims is true, it's still "devastating".

It was particularly hard to read all of the bad stuff about the Bush presidents' family because I have always been an anti-socialist, and have voted for a Bush president for four times.

On the other hand, this book was published in 2004, when George W. was still president. Now we'll never have to vote for a Bush again, so perhaps this book should be seen as an explanation as to how DEMOCRATS view the Republicans.

Kevin Phillips was a political advisor to President Nixon. He was once a "Republican", but now considers himself an Independent.

I money, greed, racism, a yen for a global empire, oil dominance and fundamentalist Christianity are the measures of a political party, then I don't want it either!

In 2016 we'll just have to nominate someone that all Americans can admire.
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on April 18, 2014
I bought this book because I have always enjoyed hearing what Kevin Phillips had to say when he provided political analysis on NPR and other places. Also, the idea of exploring a "dynasty" developed by the Bush family was intriguing. I was not disappointed.

Kevin Phillips has done a great deal of meticulous research which he has used to make his case. His "case" is that over several generations, members of the Bush family have developed numerous business ties with German industrialists, Arab Sheiks, and the like. At the same time, family members also sought to hold public office in Congress. Their political activities helped bolster the success of their businesses. And, of course, the family has also produced two presidents, with another possible candidate (Jeb Bush) still out there considering if he will make a run for the top job.

I found the book easy to read and understand even though Phillips was presenting material of great complexity. I was amazed to read the back-story of people like George H. W. Bush and his father, Prescott Bush. There was a large difference between this back-story and the public persona that George H. W. Bush, for instance, presented to the public. (I mention him because I witnessed the rise of his career in government service, but I have no memory of Prescott Bush's political career.) Phillips backs his contentions with solid research. He presents a troubling picture of how this family built its power machine over generations. He is objective; he does not adhere to the Republican Party line, but presents the story as he has found it through his research.
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on October 26, 2005
"In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist" President Eisenhower 17 Jan 1961.

Philips places this text on the fronticepiece of the book and argues that, in fact, the Bush dynasty embraces and cultivates this 'unwarrented influence' and argues that today we see around us the dramatic problems brought about by the 'disastrous rise of misplaced power.'

He works hard to describe 'Dubya's' links with Enron and Ken Lay and how these links helped propel Enron to paper-profit heights. He points to how the free-wheeling energy trading frontier in which Enron was the world's greatest gunslinger was manipulated by the company and it was this manipulation that caused the infamous rolling blackouts in California. This event marked Enron's apex. Bush did what he could to sustain the company as it fell. This support, it appears, sustained it just long enough so that the paper trail describing the crimes and assigning culpability could be expunged. It's a clear and gloomy picture, but Phillips is, I believe, more successful in dealing with Haliburton.

Halliburton deserves special treatment for many reasons. Back when it was known as Brown and Root it owned Johnson. Then, when Cheney was defense chairman under GHW Bush, he started lobbying for rules that would create private millitary contractors. Today the business holds something in excess of $300 billion contracts with the Pentagon and Halliburton and Booze Allen together hold 2700 of 3000 contracts. One of those is a priceless and unlimited cost contract to provide logistical support for ten years.

Eisenhower's wprry about undue influence of companies whose profits were made by preparing the country for war arose from Nye commission report establishing this as a leading cause of World War I. If having companies make profits out of making prudent preparations for war is the grave problem Eisenhower warned us about, how much more so is having profits and executive compensations tied on the scale and cost of executing wars? Exedutive stock option values would tied directly to how many dead American bodies lie on foreign soil. Think about it. Now, imagine a Chairman of a Company holding vast amounts of stock and options in such a company elevated to the level of US President. or Vice President He would stand to make a vast fortune by arranging lingering large scale oversees wars. Sound familiar? (( The effect of this scheme on Presidential incentive would be exactly the same as if we compensated the President $100,000 for each American soldier killed in combat. And each time the Whitehouse reveals the identity of a spy associated with someone whose work opposes the continuity of the war, pay the President $1,000,000. The proposed scheme, at least, would boast a transparency that the current scheme does not.))

Do as Karl Rove proudly claims to do and read Machiavelli's The Prince every year. Do so to understand the true religion of the Bush team. And you will get it.

The book is organized into three parts I Dynasty, II Crony Capitalism, III Oil and Armageddon (my titles) In part one he traces the Bush and Walker families military, industrial, and political affairs. I was not completely convinced that the Bush family constituted a dynasty. Or that this in and of itself was bad. Either way, Philips does argue against the legitimacy of the regime, wryly noting that the 5-4 decision that put Bush in power in 2000 contrary to the will of the people as represented either by the popular vote or by what ought to have been electoral college votes - had Florida's electoral college votes been consistent with the way people actually voted - contained "most surprising language ... indicating that in the American democracy, the public had no constitutional right to participate in electing a president." This would be news to a lot of people.

The second part is infinitely better. Here, I think, Phillips does a solid job of establishing that we are now living through Eisenhower's nighmares. (my take) It is here that the Halliburton and Enron cases are fleshed out.

In the third part we learn of GHW's negotiating role in the October Surprise which handed Reagan the election over Carter. We learn that the mantra "We do not negotiate with terrorists" that we heard through the years Bush shared the White House with Reagan came with an unstated footnote - 'except in the case where we gain some political advantage by doing so.' See also the October surprise and the Iran-Contra affair.

Reagan years marked the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the US. And since then much of the rest of the world has seen similar disturbing trends. It is unclear whether Phillips believes the Whitehouse believes it is fighting some holy war in the mideast or whether it is just cynically encouraging Christian fundamentalists to view it as such to serve his own purposes. To the Bush regime is the Iraq war about oil or Armageddon? Phillips does not answer the question but he does raise it.

The reading level of this book is higher than that of many I've read recently. The syntax was sometimes difficult. And sometimes the ideas were dense. Not a problem. I can read slowly enough to get it. But there were many, many times when I thought the continuity between sentences and between paragraphs simply did not work. The thematic instead of chronological organization led to gaps and repetition. And there were but a miniscule number of times in the book I could have guessed which chapter I was reading from without referring to the chapter heading.

For all its organizational and structural difficulties, Phillips is a master of turning a good phrase. He recognizes good quotations and he makes good use of them. Here are a couple gems:

Speaking of America's religious exaltation of market forces that sprang up in the 1980's: "Market theology can be almost childlike in its ignorance of subjects like the Koran, suicide bombers, and Carpathian ethnology."

Why I find comparing America to a third world nation under Bush is such a tempting thing to do "Texan civic culture, more akin to that of Mexico, Venezuela, or Brazil, has accepted wealth and its benefits with minimal distraction by either guilt or noblesse oblige."

Speaking of Harken energy, a company of which GW was a director before he traded his shares in tor an interest in the Texas Rangers: "Harken was described in the Texas Observer as having 'direct links to institutions involved in drug smuggling, foreign currency manipulation, and the CIA's well documented role in destabilization of the Australian government.'"

Speaking of the Bush penchant for saying one thing and doing something totally different " If hypocracy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, compassionate conservatism is the policy hypocracy uses to disguise economic vice."

Speaking of the unfunded mandate 'No child left behind' and the gaping chasm between Bush rhetoric on education and practice.. "Meanwhile, state-level plans to rein in education spending were especially notable in the two Bush political bailiwicks. In Texas, a 2003 funding crisis pushed the state share of school funding to a fify year low, forcing major cutbacks. In Florida, which likewise ranked near the bottom in per capita education spending, graduation rates, and SAT scores, Governor Jeb Bush was working to thward an expensive school class-size reduction mandate passed by voters in 2002."

And just so we do not forget : "Zapata [Petroleum, GHW Bush's oil services company] provided commercial supplies for Dulles' most notorious operation, the Bay of Pigs invasion."

(( This is a 'so-what' bit until linked up with the revelation that GHW's address was found in de Mohrenshildt's address book. This sent me to the web. There I found several sources claiming Maurice Bishop was an undercover moniker for David Atlee Philips, the CIA operative who contracted GHW's Zapata Petroleum [above]. Another source claimed Maurice Bishop was the guy who posed as a Marxist revolutionary in the Grenada invasion incident. If these assertions are true then the Grenada incident during the Reagan/Bush second term might well have been nothing but an act of theater arranged between Atlee Philips and Bush. A staged war to help Bush win the presidency. Perhaps Iraq for GHW was just a bigger act. When dynasties stage wars for reasons completely disconnected with or contrary to national interest, they deserve to fall evermore from power.}}

There are times when its language seems impenetrable, its arguments indirect, and its organization desultory, making the book a difficult read. But for the patient, it offers up a pretty damning case against perpetuating the Bush Dynasty.
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I read this book only after Mr. Phillips did not speak at the Atlanta History Center. The reasons given by the Center and Mr. Phillips, as you would imagine, differ widely. I had heard such notables as Joseph Ellis (AMERICAN SPHINX) and Doris Kearns Goodwin (NO ORDINARY TIMES) speak there though before either writer had run into academic trouble over their footnotes or lack thereof-- certainly Mr. Phillips cannot be guilty of such an infraction since each chapter is this extremely well documented book has literally dozens of footnotes. I had to see for myself what all the controversy was about.

Mr. Phillips has written a very scholarly and dense book. You may learn more about four generations of the Bush family than you wanted to; at least I did. Once a Republican who worked for Nixon, the author describes himself now as having been turned into an independent by the first President Bush. He makes many startling observations: that since the 1980's the U. S. has replaced France as the major nation with the biggest gap between the rich and the poor. He also gives convincing evidence that the Bush camp outsmarted the Democrats in the Florida recount and that the Gore people did all the wrong things, becoming trapped in what Phillips calls legal sideshows. He piles fact on top of fact as to why Gore should have won the recount if anybody is listening.

Mr. Phillips discusses the Bush connection with Saudi Arabia, the influence of both Texas politics and religious fundamentalism (scary) on the second President Bush, describing Texas as the Southern Baptist buckle on the Bible Belt and the buckle on the gun belt, Bush's ties with Enron and Cheney's and Haliburton. It's all laid out for the reader. The writer is nothing is not thorough. And he can be funny, saying that if presidental family connections were a theme park, Bush World would be a sight to behold with Mideast banks tied to the CIA along side of Florida S&L's, etc. (pp. 134-135.) But then Mr. Phillips concludes that the subject is not a laughing matter.

Anyone serious about studying or interested in the Bush presidencies will have to consult this well-researched though sometimes tedious tome.
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on May 19, 2017
i've just started reading this book. i'm sure this book is everything i think of the bushes!
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on July 31, 2016
speedy service
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on March 13, 2004
I don't know how devastating this book is. Phillips fails to pin anything directly on the Bushes, but rather compiles an impressive array of circumstantial evidence to point to a shady past that goes back four generations in the so-called "Bush Dynasty."
The book has been well researched and will provide plenty of fodder in this election campaign. Phillips charts the numerous ties the Bush family has had with the military-industrial complex over the last 80 years, and its links to the various military intelligence services during this time, culminating in the CIA. This book raises a lot of doubt as to the supposed candor of father and son who, as Phillips has illustrated, have done a pretty good job of re-inventing themselves over the year.
Phillips explored the Religious Right in depth, calling into question the sincerity of Dubya's convictions. Phillips seems to view Dubya's re-christening in the church as a calculated move to bring him closer to the Texas electorate, which is probably the most religiously conservative state in the country. Billy Graham, who is credited with showing Dubya the light, has a long history in the Republican Party dating back to Eisenhower.
But, where this book suffers is in Phillips' attempt to make a case for a Bush Dynasty. While it is unprecedented to have a son follow so closely on the heels of his father into the White House (the Adamses were separated by 24 years, and a much changed American society), it hardly bespeaks a dynasty. But, Phillips continually presses this point, fearing that dynastic politics will be the ruin of our Republic.
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on January 15, 2004
I cannot begin to express how absolutely important this book is in terms of the overview it gives of the Bush family and what really drives them. Being politically aware already, I had already heard some of this in newspaper reports before the 2000 election and couldn't believe that more people weren't alarmed just by the facts about George W. Bush and what he did in Texas, or how insidious and elusive the truth was concerning what all his father was involved in. This book fleshes out not only the trickles of truth that had already emerged concerning the Bushes (and the neo-conservatives' self-serving loyalties), but a whole - and in terms of the welfare of the average American - terrible long term agenda. Read this book. It is not propaganda. The man did his research and the truth is what it is. Then tell everyone you know about it. I have.
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on December 1, 2016
Kevin Phillips does a remarkable job. We are waiting for a sequel, describing how 2003 changed the USA forever.
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on January 30, 2009
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