Kevin Phillips' new book is sure to delight Democratic Party strategists and infuriate those who favor a second term for President George W. Bush. Simply put, Phillips believes that the Bush family has established a self-serving political dynasty that endangers both America and the rest of the world. He traces this dynasty of shared values as well as name back four generations to the current president's enterprising great-grandfathers, George Herbert Walker and Samuel Prescott Bush. From these sires sprang via just four family members two presidents, a vice president, a senator, a congressman, two governors, an ambassador to the United Nations and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was not their vision of a better society that propelled the Bushes to political power, says Phillips, but rather their wealth, connections and artfully concealed ruthless. Their link with the common man, he maintains, has been more of rhetoric than shared experience. In tracing what he perceives to be the negative effects of the Bush dynasty and especially those of the current administration Phillips examines the family's longstanding ties to the oil industry in Texas and the Middle East, furtive government operations carried out in the name of national security and George W.'s religious fundamentalism. Phillips also contends that the younger Bush has assimilated the most macho and simplistic traits of Texas frontierism, including the determination to destroy Saddam Hussein, once an American ally, as a matter of family honor. A former Republican strategist himself, Phillips faults the Democrats for being too timid and deferential to Bush in the Florida recount debacle that gave him the presidency.
Though Phillips is occasionally willing to conclude guilt in places that only suggest it, he builds his most alarming conclusions about dynastic mischief on a mountain of credible evidence. This book may not change many minds, but it will surely illuminate the sides that voters ultimately choose to take. Edward Morris reviews from Nashville.