Dynasty, Aristocracy, Fortune and Deceit in the House of Bush

As Jeb Bush considers a run for the presidency, here’s a 2004 book that ought to be updated just in time for the presidential campaign: American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and Deceit in the House of Bush by Kevin Phillips. A populist who originally worked for Richard Nixon, Phillips offers a scathing portrait of the Bush family. The Bush boys and their father are elitists embracing policies designed to protect the inherited wealth and privilege of their class, he asserts.

Excerpts from a couple of reviews:

“Phillips’ central idea is interesting and important. The twentieth century, he argues, saw a fusion of three major interests: the energy industry, Wall Street, and the defense industry. Four generations of Bushes have participated in and furthered the emergence of this finance-security-hydrocarbon complex.” — Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs.

Douglas Brinkley, Mother Jones: “Phillips illuminates how the “Bush Dynasty” has long used such old-boy organizations as Yale’s Skull and Bones, the CIA, Dillon Read, and most recently the Carlyle Group to further its main objective: political-economic power. He delineates the family’s ethically questionable dealings with such companies as Enron, Zapata Petroleum, and Halliburton. We even learn that Prescott Bush, George H.W.’s father and a U.S. senator from Connecticut, had investment dealings with Nazi Germany in the 1930s while working for the banking firm Brown Brothers Harriman.

“The family’s ties to oil date back to Ohio steelmaker Samuel Bush’s relationship to Standard Oil a century ago, while its ultimately dynastic connection to Enron spanned the first national Bush administration, the six years of George W. Bush’s governorship of Texas, and the first year of his Washington incumbency,” he writes. “No other presidential family has made such prolonged efforts on behalf of a single corporation.”

Michael Oreskes, NYT: “The book makes two basic and interlocking arguments. The first is that the United States has entered a period of what Phillips calls dynastic politics, in which the spouses and offspring of political figures are picking up where their relatives left off, to the detriment of democracy. The second is that the most important example of this phenomenon is not the Kennedys but the Bushes, who, beginning with George W. Bush’s great-grandfathers, Samuel P. Bush and George H. Walker, assembled wealth and power by exploiting ties to Wall Street, arms merchants, the American intelligence apparatus and foreign dictators including Hitler…

“Phillips argues that dynastic politics has risen in the land on the force of two familiar societal ailments — an infatuation with celebrity and a campaign finance system that favors the established and wealthy — and one not so familiar tendency: a longing for royalty. ”National politics, in short, has begun to take on the aura of a great family arena.”

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