Sunday, January 18, 2004
It is almost amusing to read a New York Times reviewer carefully trash Kevin Phillips and his new book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush in the Times stylized Kabuki of impartiality.
As I write it is, still, late Saturday evening and I just finished watching a tape of the former chief Nixon political strategist speaking about the book and answering questions in a local DC Dupont Circle bookstore on C-SPAN’s Book TV.
I was impressed by Phillips and, since he is more what I consider a traditional cloth-coat Republican rather than the modern “born again” specie, I’m thinking the ongoing and barely noticed skirmishes between Grover Norquist and Frank Gaffney coupled with the Bush indictment’s somewhat reluctant messenger and Paul O'Neill's pre-intimidated second thoughts could, finally, be signs of growing turmoil within the ranks of moderate traditional Republicans.
The review begins with the crafty suggestion that the equally sly Phillips is really a card-toting Leftist:
Phillips, like so many Americans, has drifted away from his partisan identification. He says he is now more of an independent…his politics have certainly given more solace to the intellectual left in recent years.
The review correctly states the book’s premise:
George W. Bush's behavior, far from being entirely his own product, is rooted in the dynasty's four-generation evolution and concomitant pattern of deception, dissimulation and disinformation…If there are other families who have more fully epitomized and risen alongside the hundred-year emergence of the U.S. military-industrial complex, the post-1945 national security state and the 21st-century imperium, no one has identified them.
And, with the media’s patented unfair naiveté, trashes Phillips' scholarship:
Phillips finds the family fingerprints on everything…a reader is tempted to shake Phillips and say, aren't we all the products of our forebears?
…There is no one who makes more historical connections, conclusory leaps and just plain old sweeping statements that transcend the bounds of footnotes.
A New York Times writer tossing about accusations of conclusory leaps and plain old sweeping statements is deeply, darkly funny.
That the dynastic Times mocks an author who mentions the recent dynastic tendencies of America’s elites is also darkly funny.
The Times reviewer isn’t just unsatisfied with the book’s content; he finds the dust cover or jacket, also, somewhat of a scam:
Phillips's (sic) publisher has wrapped it with a cover that seems to offer one of those fascinating multigenerational sagas…The Presidents Bush lean into each other smiling, while beneath are small photos of the family patriarchs. But Phillips is not a writer of history. He is an analyst of demographics… His tone is reminiscent of the muckrakers at the turn of the last century.
I’m guessing the reviewer, unsure of the mainstream media’s ability to obscure Phillip’s collection of available but unreported facts, feels the book should be restricted to the dull dust covers reserved for compendiums of unreliable second sources such as a lot of books, newspaper articles, Web sites and magazines.
Now, as I write, Lefties and Righties are dancing their version of the informationless media Kabuki on C-SPAN.
Is it left?
Is it right?
Why, why, why?
Why has America’s political history of confrontation, compromise and conciliation been trivialized into a kind of uninformative TV wrestling?
As Phillips doesn’t quite yet have the courage to say, perhaps this century long history of Bush family involvement in government secrecy and corporate cronyism has, excepting the uses put to the Pentagon’s old Internet, been the precise precipitator of the world we find ourselves observing through the tube's smudged glass.
As the fate of Democracy seems to be at stake, perhaps the Times could utilize some of Phillips connections and leaps as starting points for original investigations.