American Theocracy (04/08/06)

The above illustration is the cover of   American Theocracy,  former Republican strategist Kevin Phillip’s newest book .  Phillips appeared last night by sattelite linkup on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. He’s  lectured at Harvard on the failure of the press to point out the dynastic aspects of the Bush presidencies and written on the “web of corruption” that surrounded George H.W. Bush.  On March 28, of this year,  he blogged on Huffington Post about recall as an alternative to impeachment.

In American Theocracy, Phillips  raises concerns about  the role of oil in defining and  distorting American  policy;  the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government; and the levels of debt that both the government and the American people have been accumulating.  In fact the subtitle is The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.

On April 2, Phillips summarized many of the arguments in the book for a  Washington Post article, “How the GOP Became God’s Own Party.”

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush’s conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

Ominously he believes that in addition to protecting oil interests,

the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

In addition to support for invading Iraq  (anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon as satirized by Jon Stewart’s as Mess O’ Potamia),  Republicans’ coalition with fundamentalists has attacked science. 

These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women’s rights and opposition to stem cell research. This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.

Now he warns, 

No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system.

Ironically, as a Republican strategist, Phillips advised Nixon to recruit in the heartland.  He agreed that the depth of religious sentiment there gave conservatives a “powerful and legitimate electoral opportunity.

Be careful of what you wish for!  Now he concludes that,

Unfortunately, three of the preeminent weaknesses displayed in these past declines have been religious excess, a declining energy and industrial base, and debt often linked to foreign and military overstretch. Politics in the United States — and especially the evolution of the governing Republican coalition — deserves much of the blame for the fatal convergence of these forces in America today.

The New York Times review of Phillip’s book by Alan Brinkley ran March 19.  Michelle Goldberg reviewed the book in Salon March 16. Sidney Blumenthal review ran in the Guardian March 23    All the reviews were complimentary, but for some reason, the editor of Slate wrote a diatribe, calling Phillips a lefty.  Could it be because Phillips agreed to let Amy Goodman interview him for Democracy Now on March 21?

By the way, speaking of Democracy Now and theocracy,  Goodman interviewed Progressive editor  Matt Rothschild January 2005 , in follow-up of his article, “The Hidden Passages in Bush’s Inaugural Speech,” which appeared on his magazine’s website on January 21.  



Also appearing on Maher’s show  were Senator Joe Biden (D-RI who owned up to making a run for the presidency),  actor Ben Affleck, Baltimore Examiner  White House Correspondent Bill Sammon,  and via satellite  Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA).

 I thought Affleck acquitted himself well.  The site Newsbusters is all over him, so he’s the new target of the right.  Maybe because rumors spread last year that Virginia Democrats would love to recruit him to run again George Allen?  My favorite quote from Affleck was on the corruption involved in Texas redistricting:

Tom DeLay personally gerrymandered that district so severely that it looks like a map of Italy. There won’t be a Democrat elected in that seat for 1,000 years!

Biden has some notable quotations, too, on Bush attacking Iraq:

I think he makes these decisions based on his instincts and then prays he’s right.

and on intelligent design:

This is reversible, man. This is reversible. We don’t have to go down this road. I refuse to believe the majority of people believe this malarkey!


Maher’s  New Rules  segment ends each week with a editorial.  This week was on the fallacy that immigrants are holding down the minimum wage.  Last week was:  

 People who run everything can’t complain that they’re underdogs. To whit, this week, there was a highly-attended conference in Washington called “The War on Christians.” Because nothing quite says “I’m oppressed,” like the opulent Regency Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Ah, yes, whatever happened to that plucky little cult, Christianity? Oh, that’s right, they’re 80% of the American people, and have taken over all three branches of government, country music, public schools, the bestseller list, and until recently, Katie Holmes. You know, Christians, I don’t mind that you’re part of a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic but the paranoia, that does scare me.

Did you know that the Missouri legislature recently felt the need to propose a resolution declaring Christianity Missouri’s majority religion. No kidding. Really, you mean people ar

en’t saying, “Gosh, I’d like to go to Missouri, but…to Jewish.” In Savannah, recently, a children’s book about a baby penguin who is raised by two male penguins – ahh! – was removed from the library for its homosexual overtones. Because you know penguins, in those tuxedos, with the dreamy eyes. Huge fags!

The Christian right are now officially the party of paranoia. Secularists are attacking Christmas! Gays are attacking marriage! Liberals are attacking values! White girls are being abducted at an alarming rate! You know, if you’re going to be that paranoid all the time, just get high.

And the worst part is, the people bitching loudest about being persecuted for their Christianity aren’t Christians at all. They’re demagogues and conmen and scolds. And the only thing they worship is power. If you believe Jesus ever had a good word for war or torture or tax cuts for the rich, or raping the earth, or refusing water to dying migrants, then you might as well believe bunnies lay painted eggs.

And Jesus – and Jesus never said a word about gay marriage. He was much too busy hanging out with 12 guys. Now – now I know George Bush says Jesus Christ changed his heart. But believe me, Dick Cheney changed it back. The only thing Bush has in common with Jesus is they both went into their father’s business and got crucified for it.

Thomas Jefferson called the type of Christian who trumpets his own belief in the divinity of Jesus rather than the morality of Jesus “pseudo-Christians.” And that’s who’s running our country today. And since they thrive so much on turning water into “whining”—and get off on their endless pretend persecution, this Easter season, let’s give them what they want. Let’s go to the zoo, get some lions, and feed them Tom DeLay.



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