There can be no doubt that much about George W. Bush concerns those of us who care about America and its future, though as Paul Krugman (2004) has noted in another context, it is hard to talk about Bush without sounding shrill. Bush has unleashed a war against terrorism that intentionally has no definable end and could last for decades, if not most of this century. His war-making in Iraq toppled a dictator and may even bring a measure of democracy to that troubled country, but it also foolishly stirred a cauldron of hatred against the United States, immensely aided recruitment to Al-Qaeda in the region, and deposited 140,000 American soldiers as target training for the next generation of terrorists. Bush's bellicose attitudes toward North Korea turned a puny potentate into a potential mass killer with nuclear weapons. And the Bush Doctrine-which is the most radical departure in American diplomacy since the Monroe Doctrine and can be seen as a kind of internationalization of Monroe-arms the next generation of imperialists with a construct to ground their own genocidal projects. At home, George W. Bush does the bidding of the far right which he has emboldened in ways never seen in American history. Weird and wily James Dobson and his Focus on the Family, for example, in normal times would be a kooky group heard only in church basements, and before a second Bush term no one would ever have dreamed that the fanatics at the Heritage Foundation plotting the end of Social security would gain the ear of the President. Now everything is in play. Faith-based groups with millions and more millions of government funding set the agenda for schools and education, dominate programs such as prison re-entry through the Labor Department, and set the tone in all kinds of other areas just below the political radar. And while budgets are cut in all the areas that support life and hope in our society, the Department of Homeland Security, DOD, and the 15 major so-called intelligence agencies gobbles up all the resources and strengthen the Patriot Act to muzzle dissent in the name of protecting the homeland. The homeland. Who actually thought up that absurd, fascist-sounding term? It just crept into our discourse like a kind of malignant virus.
I actually never underestimated George W. Bush, and I still think those with a critical mind fail to understand him. The minute he won election as Governor of Texas in 1994-defeating the formidable Ann Richards, no less-conservatives of a more extreme character began to lick their chops. Here was a man truly of the South and the new Republican party, with a swagger and an accent that were not fake, while yet a scion of what has become the most powerful, if not very appealing, political family in the country. What Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, not to mention Dick Cheney and all the neo-conservatives chomping at the bit for power, saw was that George W. Bush was the ideal person to realize their dreams that seemed within reach after Reagan but which got surprisingly put on hold with the elder Bush and then completely derailed by the charisma of Clinton. What those planning the revolution from the right all saw is that Dubya is perfectly smart, or at least smart enough, and infinitely shrewder than his opponents, whom he consistently catches with their pants down. They also understand his character and his real political strengths. For he is a decent man personally, funny, loyal, and most of all authentically religious. In fact, the most authentic dimension of George W. Bush is his religion.
Studies to date of Bush and the Bush family mostly miss the mark, except for American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips (2004), who details-with "dismay and disillusionment"-the long rise of the Bush and Walker families, threading their way through "damning political, banking, and armaments scandals" with a "hunger for power" and embracing "crony capitalism" and displaying a "moral arrogance and backstage disregard of the democratic and republican traditions" that is breathtaking. …