No matter how much Karl Rove and the smoke and mirrors crew at the White House spin reality, things are not going particularly well for the Bush administration. With poll numbers in the upper 30s and headed south, civil war threatened in Iraq, and Americans growing weary with war, the spin room has its mojo working overtime. Of late, President Bush has been out and about, trying desperately to put a fresh face on his inability to admit mistakes and embrace the miserable failure of a presidency he’s lorded over for eight years.
For much of his two terms, whenever things got tough and public opinion veered from his own views on the war, the president could always pull out his favorite “get out of jail free”card from the deck; that being the face card of fear. And each time, like putty in his hand, the bleating masses would quietly fall back into lock step, chanting, “the war on terror.” Like the boy who cried wolf, however, you can only trot this out so many times before even the most timid of subjects refuse to cower back into the shadows.
With a palpable malaise blanketing the country, there is a sense coming from every corner that something needs to be done to right the ship. The only constituency that Bush seems capable of keeping firmly planted in his pocket, is the hardcore Kool-Aid drinkers of the hard right.
While the mainstream media has been slow to turn on this president, there is much more critical coverage and scrutiny happening of late. Actual questions are being asked concerning wire-tapping and spying on Americans, as well as the long-term forecast for troop deployment in Iraq.
For me, the first significant signal that President Bush has lost his hold on the country and that the tide may be turning, is when longtime members of the establishment begin to circle the wagons and call for wholesale changes. Obviously, former Marine Captain and current U.S. Congressman John Murtha’s call last November for immediate withdrawal from Iraq received press, but Rove and Co. were able to masterfully counter it with spin and trot out their own their own military lackeys to counter Murtha’s gutsy call, going so far as to label Murtha, a “coward.”
Yesterday, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman had Kevin Phillips on her program to talk about his latest book, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.
Phillips is not your typical critic of the current administration. Unlike many Democrats, who voted for the war, authorized increased measures of surveillance via the U.S.A. Patriot Act (USAPA) and then, made an abrupt about face once public opinion began to shift, giving them political cover, Phillips is neither a member of the opposition party and has previously written extensively about the dangers that the Bush family pose to the American people and democracy.
Kevin Phillips was the top Republican strategist for most of the 1970s and 1980s. When he wrote The Emerging Republican Majority, Newsweek called it the "political bible of the Nixon administration." Because Phillips criticism isn’t of the “Johnny come lately” variety—he’s written several other books detailing problems and developments, long before they were acknowledged by the majority of the media and other commentators—he possesses a credibility that most others lack. A casual review of his books will show that Phillips is one of the few Republicans and self-identified conservatives who seem capable of publicly varying from the hard line position and offering an honest critique of the movement from within.
Interestingly, Phillips book was referenced in a question asked of the President in Cleveland, after his talk, on Monday, before the Cleveland Club. The question referenced Phillips contention that many modern-day conservatives have an ideology and view of foreign policy that is wedded to the apocalyptic, end-times eschatology of the Left Behind series (Jesus is coming to get us, so let’s blow this sucker up and he’ll carry us home).
Sunday’s New York Times said of Phillips’ book, (it may be) "the most alarming analysis of where we are and where we may be going to have appeared in many years."
After hearing Phillips’ interview with Amy Goodman, I’d concur that this is much more than the typical hype accompanying a new release, designed merely to sell some copies. Knowing Phillips and having read his work before, including Wealth and Democracy and American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, I know him to be a good writer and an honest and thorough researcher. Despite our philosophical differences and ideological points dividing us, he’s a writer I’ve come to respect and reference in most matters political.
One of the most startling parts of the interview was an exchange between Goodman and Phillips, where he very reluctantly answered Goodman’s question regarding the imperial presidency and dictatorial leanings of the current administration. Aware that he will probably pay a price for saying it (his unease in giving the answer was very apparent watching the program), I credit his courage for daring to utter publicly, what some have been thinking privately. Once again, keep in mind, this isn’t someone with anarchist, or even socialist leanings, calling for a change in government. This is a lifelong Republican and former Nixon aide, saying we need some type of change in our form of government.
Goodman sets up Phillips answer, by asking him if he thinks we’re edging towards a dictatorship, referencing a speech given by former Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Kevin Phillips, former Republican strategist. His book is called American Theocracy. Sandra Day O'Connor, Supreme Court justice -- former Supreme Court justice, gave a speech. It wasn’t recorded. It was in Washington, D.C. Of course, Sandra Day O'Connor, the reports were she was praying for a George Bush victory and helped hand it to him the last time so that she could retire, so that he would be the one to choose her replacement. And she is the person who earlier this month warned the U.S. is in danger of edging towards a dictatorship of right-wingers that continue to attack the judiciary. What do you think of this?
KEVIN PHILLIPS: It’s absolutely true. Tom DeLay, before he was pushed out, but Bill Frist, as well, and some of them have gone to conferences about how they can reshape the judiciary and who they can push through, and so forth. She's obviously very concerned. There are just endless numbers of Republicans that are privately very concerned. And I really don't know what's going to happen here, but if I can make bold with your microphone for a minute, there should be some thought among everybody in the United States -- progressives, conservatives, serious centrists, whatever you want to say -- about how it becomes clear that this man really cannot function as president. We can deal with that situation. I don't happen to believe impeachment is the answer. This has become so sort of trivialized after Clinton and Nixon and the “I'm going to get you because you got us” sort stuff. I think we have to think far beyond that.
AMY GOODMAN: What?
KEVIN PHILLIPS: We need some kind of coalition government now. Before I get into too much trouble for this, let me go back to Britain between the wars, World War I and II, when they were really on the skids. The old parties lost their validity. They were fragmenting. There were small parties, third parties coming up. So they frequently governed by coalition governments. They had one at the end of World War I. They had another for quite awhile during the 1930s. I don't know exactly how we do this, but you have to dismantle this “I'm going to get you because you got us” impeachment business and the way in which they’re always zapping each other and they polarize, and the people in the middle represent only 15%, because they are stalwarts in both parties from safe districts. Now, it’s not that they’re all that unreasonable personally, but when they’re arraigned against each other politically, it doesn’t work too well. So, I think we’re going to face within a few years a further realization of how ineffective our institutions have become.
I nearly fell out of my chair after hearing Phillips say this! Obviously, he knows his history, with the reference to Britain’s problems and how they found a way through them.
This won’t be the last we hear about Phillips and his latest book. If you can, try to listen (or watch) to the Democracy Now interview in its entirety. Also, Terri Gross interviewed Phillips, last night, on her program, Fresh Air.
It will be interesting to see just how much traction Phillips' book is able to gather. While I haven't read it, yet, based upon his other works, I'll wager that it is thorough to a fault and that Phillips will be very concise in his various points regarding our government, the issue of peak oil and the growing national debt that looms over us like a Damocles sword.