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American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush [Paperback]

Kevin Phillips
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Sep 2004
An acerbic, withering account of the ascent of the Bush family to the pinnacle of the American political and social elite and the implications of the dynasty's hold on power for democracy in America. With an unerring instinct for fakery and humbug,Phillips traces the convoluted trail of Bush mendacity through three generations. The picture he paints of a family willing to do ANYTHING to hold power and a country so craven as to vote for it is both very funny and completely dismaying in equal measure.


Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (30 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141015772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141015774
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,120,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon 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: How the Bush Clan Became the World's Most Powerful and Dangerous Family, 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 manoeuvering to occupy 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 has succeeded as thoroughly as the Bushes. Jefferson and Madison would be horrified and, according to Phillips, we should be too. --Silvana Tropea, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Kevin Phillips was born in New York in 1940 .He is one of America's leading political commentators and is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio. He lives in Connecticut.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb account of creeping corporatism 30 Jun 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is an outstandingly useful study, not just of the Bush family, but of a brutal and rapacious ruling class. Its power bases are Wall Street, the Pentagon, the CIA, the Texas-based oil business and the British alliance. Its corporatist fascism is destroying America's democratic and republican traditions.
CIA director Bush Senior thwarted Carter's efforts to get the US hostages out of Iran, helping to get Reagan elected. After becoming vice-president in 1981, Bush arranged the arming of the mujehadin and Saddam. Bush illegally sold arms to Iran and used the funds to back the Contra terrorists. In August 1990, Thatcher encouraged Bush's attack on Iraq: "George, I was about to be defeated in England when the Falkland conflict happened. I stayed in office for eight years after that."
Leading the religious Right, Bush junior portrays America as a new Rome beset by barbarians, and Iraq as Babylon. These fundamentalists use the Bible to justify pre-emptive war (Esther 8:11); Jeremiah 50:8-20 promises that Israel will gain 'from the destruction of Babylon'.
The Bushes look after their own: the richest 1% has doubled their share of US income since 1980. The ratio of executive pay to factory workers' pay went from 42:1 to 419:1. The USA and Britain now have the least social mobility in the developed world.
Texas capitalists oppose immigration control because they want cheap labour. "In addition to laws inimical to unions, the proven solution for keeping costs down has been Mexican laborers - either illegal immigrants or temporary guest workers ... Their presence in the Texas labor market also applied downward pressure on other wages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Revealing Glimpse Into A Murky World 17 Oct 2006
By AD
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kevin Phillips has written an illuminating exposé of the Presidential family's roots in the world of military-industrial intrigue and high-level international manoeuverings. Some of the revelations/allegations are simply jaw-dropping - the overall impression the reader gets, is that in America there is, and has been for many years, an elite group of politicians, bankers and industrialists who basically don't care how they make large amounts of money, as long as their businesses and dynasties become ever and ever richer and more powerful. In short,there's big money in war. Who would have believed, for example, that the Bush forbears were, through various channels, bankers to the Nazi regime? Incredible if true - and not Dubya's fault, of course - but Phillips seems to have made a good case, and has obviously done his homework. The historical connections then seem to have morphed into the present-day world of more familiar cases like Iran-Contra, Enron, Halliburton, and the rest.

A critic would argue that you could draw a chart and make connections between any number of prominent figures at totally different ends of the spectrum. But Phillips draws the compelling conclusion that some of America's heroes are tin gods, to say the least.

A little hard going at times, but a challenging read - if you accept the author's arguments, many serious questions remain to be answered.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rather loose attempt at establishing a dynasty 22 Mar 2004
Format:Hardcover
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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5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this 24 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book should be mandatory reading for everyone, explaining the background to international incidents from petroleum shortages to 9/11 and the inability of the Bush administration to deal with terrorism.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  190 reviews
371 of 383 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not merely about the Bushes, but about the nation as a whole 1 Feb 2004
By Robert Moore - Published on Amazon.com
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. The faults and flaws are not tied merely to the personalities of Bush 41 and Bush 43, but are systemic and run across the political spectrum, and across the political spectrum. Put simply, the problem is the dominance of the industrial-military complex that Eisenhower tried to warn us against (though Phillips would characterize it as the industrial-military-investment-energy-secret service complex). In "Who is an Author?" Michel Foucault argued that the author was a nexus through which all of society produced a book. In a sense, Bush 41 and Bush 43 are merely conduits through which the great conglomerate that Phillips describes with such clarity makes concrete its goals. Even if Bush 43 is defeated in 2004, this complex is not going to go away. Bush is part of the problem, but merely a part.
The power of the book derives from the deep background he provides of the founders of the Bush/Walker dynasty. Ironically, although two Bushes have become president, the real founding of the family came on the Walker side. George Herbert Walker, Bush 41's maternal grandfather, is the Joseph Kennedy of the Walker/Bush clan. Every indication is that Preston Bush, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush are marginally gifted individuals, with no real abilities of their own, who have managed to be successful because of the mass of extraordinarily high-level connections established by George Herbert Walker. It was through Walker that the two families became allied with many of the most powerful individuals in 20th century American life, connections that Bush 41 and Bush 43 have exploited over and over and over again. I had read before about key individuals who had assisted, say, Bush 43 in ventures like Arbusto or Bush 41 in the Zapata oil operations, but reading of the individuals who would step is with enormous investments meant little to me. But those investors were without exception individuals who had become aligned with the family through George Herbert Walker. These are classic instances of what is known as crony capitalism, which has been key to the ascent of both Bushes to the White House.
Phillips does a magnificent job at detailing the family connections to the investment world, the world of oil and energy, to the Middle East (extending back not merely to the first president, but to George Herbert Walker and his massive business ties to the region in the 1920s and thereafter), and (largely through their Yale connections and through Walker's business ties) to the intelligence community, and especially the CIA. Most disturbing is the way he describes the family's enormously circumscribed view of economics. Essentially, the family knows nothing of business or economics outside the narrow purview of investment (even their connections with oil and energy has been on the investment side). They have little knowledge or contact with industry or small business or, really, any aspect of the economy outside of investing. Therefore, the family assumption is that if you take care of investors, you have taken care of the only thing in an economy that matters. If investors are doing well, you needn't pay direct attention to any other facet of the economy, like jobs or manufacturing capacity. Although many economists are deeply concerned about the current state of the U.S. economy (with gigantic deficits, enormous debt to nations like China, and continued employment difficulties), from the narrow view of the Bushes, things are good because they have taken care of the investment class.
I heartily recommend this book to anyone concerned with the current state of politics in America. It is not, as I said, merely a book on the Bushes, but on many of the things truly wrong today in America. Essential reading.
295 of 311 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make Up Your Own Mind 10 Jan 2004
By "kevinmackinnon2" - Published on Amazon.com
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.
81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Book With a Few Odd Jags 7 Feb 2004
By LAM - Published on Amazon.com
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. Judging from this fact, and from reading other of Phillips' books, such as "Boiling Point" or "Wealth and Democracy," or "The Politics of Rich and Poor" or his famous feuds with elitists, such as William F. Buckley Jr., Phillips is clearly a person who cares about all levels on the socioeconomic spectrum, and not just the plutocracy. It's easy to see why he would be so bothered by a family that embodies all the worst elements of the modern Republican Party. If only from the tone of "American Dynasty," I have no doubt that Phillips is, in fact, greatly upset with the current status of the Republican Party of which he was long a member, and its wholesale embrace of crony capitalism and kooky religionists afraid of the teaching evolution. But unlike some of my fellow reviewers, I think Phillips' obvious disenchantment makes this book more powerful -- not less.
163 of 172 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At least read the book before criticizing 12 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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!
124 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a writer digs into the Bush sewer 6 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After years of puff-pieces on the Bush family from lazy reporters just trying to meet deadline, Kevin Phillips stuns us all by gathering largely public information to show the lies and deceit of the Bush legacy. From the early days in the military industrial complex to the recent "election" to the presidency...lazy reporters have let scandal after scandal, deal after deal...just slide.
If nothing else, this book shows our national press corps to be lazy elitists.
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