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January 11, 2004 - New books this week...

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The former Bush Treasury Secretary, a fellow who served three presidents and ran Alcoa for years, turns on the big Texan...



The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill

Ron Suskind, Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 368 pages

Publication Date: January 13, 2004


This got this most coverage this week.  O'Neill will discus the book this evening, Sunday, January 11, on Sixty Minutes.  Everyone is talking about it.


Paul O'Neill, who had been CEO of Alcoa, was Bush's first Treasury Secretary.  He lasted two years, and then got fired.  He shot off his mouth a lot.  He thought the tax cuts for the rich were kind of stupid and wouldn't do much good.  That sort of thing.


According to the book, ideology and electoral politics so dominated the domestic-policy process during his time in power that it was often impossible to have a "rational exchange of ideas."  The "incurious President was so opaque" on some important issues that top Cabinet officials were left guessing his mind even after face-to-face meetings.  Cheney is portrayed as an unstoppable force, "unbowed by inconvenient facts" as he drives Administration policy toward his goals.


Yeah, and in the book he says the planning for the invasion and occupation of Iraq started nine days after Bush took office, many months before the WTC and Pentagon attacks.  We were going to removed the government of Iraq and occupy that country no matter what.  Some people find that disturbing.  Some of us just sigh.


The White House folks have been quoted everywhere as having this response to it all: "We didn't listen to him when he was there. Why should we now?"




In his interview with Time Magazine, O'Neill "winces a little" at that quote.  "He's worried it's too stark and now allows that it may just be Bush's style to keep his advisers always guessing."  But according to Time, in Suskind's book, O'Neill's assessment of Bush's executive style is a harsh one: it is portrayed as a failure of leadership.  Aides were left to play "blind man's bluff," trying to divine Bush's views on issues like tax policy, global warming and North Korea.  Sometimes, O'Neill says, they had to float an idea in the press just to scare a reaction out of him.  This led to public humiliation when the President contradicted his top officials, as he did Secretary of State Colin Powell on North Korea and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman on global warming.  O'Neill came to believe that this gang of three beleaguered souls - only Powell remains - who shared a more nonideological approach, were used for window dressing.  We "may have been there, in large part, as cover," he tells Suskind.


Sigh.  Again.  But you'll see this all play out this week and next. 

Another former Republican piles on, with a new book on the Bush family - all of them!



All in the Family
By Kevin Phillips, Viking Penguin, 331 pages.


From Douglas Brinkley's review in Mother Jones: 

Unlike the recent spate of anti-Bush books, Phillips' American Dynasty - an erudite manifesto on the dangers of cronyism, hereditary privilege, "paper entrepreneurialism," and tax shelters - is devastating due to its analytical fair-mindedness.  Essentially, he traces how four generations of Bushes corrupted U.S. foreign policy through international business ventures that benefited the family.  The most recent two George Bushes aren't evil people, Phillips argues, just greedy and ambitious Ivy League Texans.  The Bush family has brought the American political system to a "perilous state," he believes, due to their cunning brand of petro-politics.  "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."


... A major motif that Phillips develops throughout American Dynasty is the influence of Texas machismo on modern political culture.  In his view, the Lone Star State has "an ego to match its acreage."  Phillips sees the Dallas-Houston-Waco-Austin- Midland way of doing things as detrimental - even menacing - to the world at large.  Cleverly, the Bush Dynasty, with its deep New England roots, shifted its operations to Texas after World War II to a land where the law could be more easily manipulated, he claims.  Instead of sipping sherry at the Century Club in New York, the Bushes, by the time the Astrodome was built in the mid-1960s, were plopping their cowboy boots on the velvet sofas at the Petroleum Club in Houston.  Phillips, however, makes clear that the genius behind the Bush Dynasty is its ability to be from both the Permian Basin and Wall Street.  He quotes University of Pennsylvania professor John J. DiIulio - who had been the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives - as deeming this dynastic synergy the rise of "Mayberry Machiavellianism."

You get the idea.  And this is from the former Nixon staffer who authored The Emerging Republican Majority back then.


Kevin Phillips provides an excerpt of this new book in the Los Angeles Times, today, Sunday, January 11, 2004.  See The Barreling Bushes for that.  It ends with this: 

There is no evidence to suggest that the events of Sept. 11 could have been prevented or discovered ahead of time had someone other than a Bush been president.  But there is certainly enough to suggest that the Bush dynasty's many decades of entanglement and money-hunting in the Middle East have created a major conflict of interest that deserves to be part of the 2004 political debate.  No previous presidency has had anything remotely similar.  Not one.


This may be worth a read.  I find his prose style dull, but we all can't be Michael Moore or Al Franken.  Sometimes content matters.


You will find an interview with the author here. 


This is seriously depressing stuff.

The new manifesto from the Bush Freon Neocons is published, showing how we can and must rule the world.  Well, it sort of comes down to that.



Doug Ireland over at TomPaine.Com reviews a book published last week.  And I've seen the two authors on all the talk shows this week, from Charlie Rose to CNN.  Nasty guys.

See the review at this link.

Here's a bit of it.


Published the day before 2004 by Random House, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror bears the signature of two of Washingtons most influential ideologues.  Richard Perle, known as the "Prince of Darkness", helped put together the now-famous 1999 neocon manifesto (signed by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others) calling for war on Iraq.  David Frum is Dubya's former speechwriter, the man who coined "axis of evil" and put it in the president's mouth.

The book proposes harsh action against France - which Perle and Frum say should be treated as an "enemy" - and thunders that "We should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington."


Yeah, well.  That's been coming for a long time.  And this?


The books knee-jerk frog-baiting is mild compared to its call for a military blockade of North Korea, combined with overt preparations for war.  The North Koreans, of course, have just accepted an extensive visit by a non-governmental U.S. nuclear inspection team headed by the former director of the Los Alamos labs.

The dangerous duo says that Syria, too, should be put into economic quarantine, its oil supplies cut off and its territory invaded in the search for terrorists.


Threaten war with them all.  That's the idea.

Hey, it works!  Or one supposes it might work.  If not, there is actual war or some way of overthrowing pesky governments.


In Iran, nothing less than a U.S.-sponsored regime change will satisfy Perle and Frum.  In their nostalgic fantasy, the United States will finance dissidents to overthrow the current Tehran regime (shades of the CIA coup that overthrew the Mossadegh government a half century ago).


Well, that's out right.  They tick us off.

Ireland calls these guys Freon Neocons:


Perle, Frum and their ilk have freon where their blood ought to be: what's more, their chilling willingness to use U.S. military force anytime and anywhere Washington feels like it has now been enshrined in the Bush doctrine of "pre-emptive first strikes" (read: aggressive war). And damn the consequences to the innocents, who are chalked up in a dehumanizing way as so much "collateral damage."

If Bush is re-elected, the Freon Neocons - from their power bases in the Pentagon and Dick Cheney's office - stand an excellent chance of seeing their reckless cowboy imperialisms, codified for all to see in Perle and Frums's book, become reality.

And if I were an Iranian, a Syrian or a North Korean, I'd start building myself a very deep bomb shelter.


Indeed. Who will stop us?

These two fellows are the advisors to George and the rest in power.  So this is the new policy thinking: You don't mess with us.

For a country feeling frightened and beat-up, and regarded now by most of the world as a cowardly bully, this is heady stuff.  Everyone hates us?  Fanatics are trying to kills us?  The French lecture us?  Fuck 'em all.  Bomb everyone.  We do have the power.

Jacques Chirac could get a visit from some Army Rangers any day and then we'd have Jean-Marie Le Pen running things over there, a fellow Bush could warm to easily.