On the sidebar I recommend the latest book by Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy. I have not finished reading it myself, but have to say that it is the most provocative book about current American politics I have read in a long time. Phiilips has been on the MSM with some regularity the last few weeks promoting the book. I have heard him interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, Lou Dobbs on CNN and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! There have undoubtedly been others that I have missed.
If, by the way, after all the media attention, you were unaware of Phillips, it appears you were not alone. Last week after his City Club speech in Cleveland, President Bush was asked the following question from the audience:
My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips in his latest book, “American Theocracy,” discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the Apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the Apocalypse?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is — I haven’t really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here’s how I think of it. The first I’ve heard of that, by the way. I guess I’m more of a practical fellow.
To get the full impact of Bush’s lame response, you should watch the video. Crooks and Liars has the clip.
As is almost always the case with Bush, there are two ways to assess his response. On one hand, he might really be unaware of the position of the “prophetic Christians” and of his administration’s (Rove’s) blatant “reaching out” to them- in which case he is an utter fool. On the other hand, it might be the case that Bush shares the vision of prophetic Christians and is lying to the American people. As I have been reading Phillips, I have come to believe that Bush is not only a fool and a liar, but also a tool whose presidency has been hijacked and exploited by a cabal made up neo-cons and leaders of the radical Christian right.
Connecting the dots
One of the great strengths of American Theocracy is the way in which Phillips puts his analysis in historical context. This book is very well researched and quite convincing. He does an excellent job of connecting the arguments of the neo-Cons with the religious right. Phillips. who gained initial fame as the the Republican Party strategist who devised the “Southern strategy” which led to the Republican hegemony that exists today, argues that the current GOP coalition of neo-cons and the Christian right “is fatally flawed from a national interest standpoint” because it is dominated “by an array of outsider religious dominations caught up in biblical morality, distrust of science and a global imperative of religious and political evangelicalism.”
Phillips argues that that radical religion represents one of the greatest threats to American Democracy in the 21st Century. For Phillips, radical religion “encompasses everything from the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell types to the attacks on medicine and science and the Left Behind books with their End Times and Armageddon scenarios.” I was obviously aware of Robertson and Falwell, but not the Left Behind books.
It turns out that one of the co-authors of the Left Behind series is Tim Lehaye, who, was a co-founder of the “Moral Majority.” In 1981 LeHaye founded the highly secretive Council for National Policy. Included in the membership of the CNP are the Reverends Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, Jesse Helms, Tom DeLay, Oliver North, Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The Left Behind series has been wildly popular dominating the best seller list on a number of occasions. The series is made up of 12 novels with a story line that is basically an evangelical interpretation of the Book of Revelation set in the context of contemporary global politics: the Rapture has taken place, the Antichrist has taken control of the U.N. and created a single global economy, while a small group of American-led believers battles the forces of evil in a showdown in Jerusalem.
Although I have been ignorant of LeHaye’s philosophy, George Bush is lying to say that he was not aware of it. In fact, according to the Professor of Comparative Religion, Hugh Urban, “In October 1999, in fact, he [Bush] addressed LaHaye’s Council for National Policy — though there is a much difference of opinion as to what he actually said in that particular address, which was recorded but has never been publicly released.”