Note: You can also find another excellent interview
with Kevin Phillips on Buzzflash.
To the left we offer his book, American Dynasty,
for sale through Amazon. Many of the claims made
by Phillips about the Bush family can also be
found in articles we have posted in our Bush Articles'
Section in case you don't want to buy the book.
to Kevin Phillips talk about politics, it's easy
to mistake him for a populist firebrand from the
1890s. He rails against the growing inequality
of wealth in America. He bemoans the unprecedented
influence that private corporations hold over
public institutions. He attacks the "smug conservatism"
of George W. Bush and accuses the president of
attempting to establish a family dynasty better
suited to royalist England than to democratic
Phillips is no left-wing demagogue. He's not only
a lifelong Republican, he's also the guy who literally
wrote the book that became the blueprint for the
party's dominance of presidential politics. Phillips
served as the chief political strategist for Richard
Nixon in 1968, and, in The Emerging Republican
Majority, he formulated the "Southern Strategy"
that helped hand the White House to the GOP for
his new book American Dynasty, Phillips lays out
his almost visceral distaste for what he calls
"the politics of deceit in the House of Bush,"
accusing the administration of dishonesty and
secrecy that would make Tricky Dick blush. He
traces the course of Bush's family over the past
100 years, detailing how they sought influence
"in the back corridors" of the oil and defense
industries, investment banking and the intelligence
establishment. Elites, not elections, put Bush
in power. "I'm not talking about ordinary lack
of business ethics or financial corruption," says
Phillips, who recently registered as an Independent
for the first time. "Four generations of building
toward dynasty have infused the Bush family's
hunger for power and practices of crony capitalism
with a moral arrogance and backstage disregard
of the democratic and republican traditions of
the U.S. government." As a result, he says, "deceit
and disinformation have become Bush political
Bush really any worse than Nixon?
makes the Bush family so different -- and, in
many ways, so dangerous -- is that they've created
a dynasty. The second Bush administration is a
political restoration, not unlike the English
Stuarts in 1660 or the French Bourbons in 1815.
In the last election, the Republican Party turned
to the eldest son of the Republican who got the
boot eight years earlier. That's what this country
fought a revolution to get rid of in 1776. Nobody
thought that there would be another royal house,
with a couple of Georges.
house? Isn't that a bit of a stretch?
family has made a big deal of the notion that
it is descended from royalty. Burke's Peerage
even got involved in the last election, saying
that Bush won because he had the most royal ancestry.
The Bushes eat this stuff up. They don't need
democracy -- they feel entitled by ancestry. For
them, the presidency is something that can be
won with a Supreme Court decision.
what's so bad about a son succeeding his father
type of dynasty is antithetical to the American
political tradition. The presidency is now subject
to inherited views, inherited staff, inherited
wars, inherited money, inherited loyalties. I'm
not talking about particular policies -- I'm talking
about a unique evolution of a corrupting institutional
process in American governance.
this is a dynasty, who's next? Jeb?
the logical choice. If they decide there needs
to be a gap, you might have Jeb's son, Neil P.,
in twenty years. Given Hillary's position in the
polls, it could go back to the Clinton's first.
People are obviously willing to play the relatives
game right now.
are the Bushes viewed within the Republican Party?
was always a sense that George H.W. Bush was somebody
who didn't owe anything to voters -- he couldn't
even win an election for Congress. His push came
from people behind the scenes, from the Establishment.
Both his grandparents were heavily involved in
wartime finance and military contracting during
World War I -- they were there at the very start
of the military-industrial complex -- and his
father was a U.S. senator who directed an oil-services
company like Halliburton. They had ties to big
money, big oil and the Eastern old-boys network.
enemies in the party were people who were insulted
by the way he played on his privilege and connections.
Richard Nixon was one; Ronald Reagan was another.
Donald Rumsfeld didn't like him, either -- he
and a lot of others in the Ford administration
thought Bush was a lightweight. In one of Rumsfeld's
greatest miscalculations, he put Bush in charge
of the CIA, thinking that would ice Bush's political
future. Instead, it was like throwing Bush in
the briar patch. There had been rumors for years
that Bush had been recruited by the agency, perhaps
even when he was a student at Yale. As director,
he became near-family and a business associate
of Saudi princes. He funneled arms to Saddam Hussein
and then, as president, fought the first Gulf
War to oust Saddam from Kuwait. And he was implicated
in scandals involving the Iran hostages and BCCI,
the rogue bank that financed clandestine arms
does that have to do with the current administration?
the time George W. came in, he was a product of
a family that was more embroiled in the Middle
East than almost any other American family --
to say nothing of any other major American political
family. The administration has not been interested
in turning over any rocks that represent Saudi
Arabia, because the Bush family has been in bed
with them for so long. In addition, many of the
people surrounding the president are former retainers
of his father. They wanted to nail Saddam because
he got away from them before. That's a central
element of restorations: the settling of old scores.
the continuation of old favors?
is a prime example of that. No other presidential
family has made such prolonged efforts on behalf
of a single corporation. This was the first scandal
spread out over two generations, and it was the
biggest in terms of size. Enron was the nation's
fifth-largest company when it went belly up --
it had a lot more impact on the economy than the
small oil companies in the Teapot Dome scandal.
Ken Lay needed government favoritism, and the
Bushes supplied it. George W. made calls to drum
up business for him in Texas, and George H.W.
made Lay the chief planner for a G-7 meeting,
which helped Enron get approval for major overseas
projects. Thanks in large part to the Bushes,
Enron received more than $7 billion in government
played a major role in W's victory. How does his
relationship to the religious right differ from,
moral terms, Reagan wasn't exactly running the
Bluenose Express -- he was the first American
president to be married to two different Hollywood
movie stars. He knew how to put on a good show
when he was talking to the religious right, but
there wasn't a whole lot they were going to get
out of him. And when it came to Bush's father,
the religious right thought he was some guy with
striped pants who came from these schools where
their fathers had been janitors. They didn't relate
to him at all.
W. is another story. He's a guy who's been born
again, who believes in a lot of what the religious
right does. He's Reagan quadrupled in terms of
his holier-than-thou, I'm-the-Messiah attitude.
He sort of fell into national politics serving
as his father's representative to the religious
right in 1986. It was right around the time that
he was finding religion himself -- and the time
that fundamentalists and evangelicals, having
made their big splash with Reagan, were beginning
to institutionalize power within the state Republican
parties and a national framework. George W. spent
enormous amounts of time with these people, and
he learned how to walk the walk and talk the talk.
He is able to be so strong with the religious
right because he got inside their whole setup.
He can figure out how much to give them to get
them on his side and keep them under control.
For the first time in history, the president of
the United States is the acknowledged leader of
the religious right.
has that role shaped his approach to the war on
on his support among fundamentalists and evangelicals,
I would say that a slight majority of the people
who voted for him probably believe in Armageddon.
After 9/11, that allowed him to think of himself
as somebody who has an almost God-accorded role.
He sees himself as an anointed leader, and his
speeches evoke religious code words: evil, crusade,
the ways of Providence, wonder-working power.
One biblical scholar who analyzed Bush's speech
to the nation on October 7th, 2001, announcing
the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, identified a half-dozen
veiled borrowings from the Book of Revelation,
Isaiah, Matthew and Jeremiah.
religion, how has the Republican Party changed
since your days with Nixon?
some ways, you could say that Reagan was a halfway
point. Reagan was tired of government programs,
but he didn't want to dismantle the New Deal --
he just didn't want those programs to get out
of hand. George W. grew up in a family where they
never needed a safety net in the course of the
twentieth century -- and they weren't interested
in anyone who did. He believes private charity
will take care of the needy.
also didn't believe in preemptive war. He talked
tough, but there wasn't this whole theology in
place, like we've seen in the last couple of years,
that says, "We're entitled to fry anybody we want."
Bush be defeated?
shows that restored dynasties eventually overdo
it and tank themselves -- but it usually takes
more than four years. The French Bourbons were
restored in 1815 and got the heave-ho in 1830.
The English Stuarts were restored in 1660 and
ejected in 1688. The problem is, the other side
gets dismasted by the restoration and can't mount
an effective opposition.
should Democrats do to beat Bush?
economy is obviously still iffy, and Bush could
sag hugely if Iraq turns into a civil war. But
I also think the Republicans are as ideologically
overextended today as the Democrats were in the
1960s. They're vulnerable on religion. John McCain
actually ran against all of George W.'s games
with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Bob Jones
University in 2000, and he didn't do badly. He
didn't take a goddamn poll -- he just went out
there and said all the stuff the Democrats don't
have the guts to say.
think half of the Democrats are afraid of their
own shadow. That's why Howard Dean has been so
successful. Even if he made mistakes, he had something
to say, and he had the courage to say it. And
that'll go a long way when you've got so many
Establishment politicians who basically just look
for whatever the received wisdom is and put a
little maraschino cherry on it. If Dean and Al
Gore can get the Democrats to face the Republicans'
obvious weaknesses, maybe we'll see a real blueprint.
But if it's emerging, it's still very quiet.
would that blueprint look like?
have to focus on the Bush family itself. They
have made the presidency into an office infused
with an almost hereditary dishonesty. There's
so much lying and secrecy and corruption to it.
Just look at the way Neil and Jeb and Marvin and
George W. have earned their livings, with all
these parasitic operations: profiting from their
political connections, cashing in on favors from
big corporations and other governments. It's a
convergence of arrogance -- the sense that you
don't have to pay attention to democratic values.
It's happening again with Halliburton. They can't
help but let their old cronies in there to make
buckets of money off the war.
own arrogance provides a handle for their defeat.
If the country does not come to grips with what
Bush has done, then we may lose what we value
about our republican and democratic government.
Posted: January 7, 2004