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January 16, 2008 |

By Miscellaneous | Books | January 16, 2008 |

For the record, I don’t trust any politician, regardless of political affiliation. Perhaps I was scarred by Animal Farm, since the old maxim about power and corruption is never far from my mind. The cynic in me feels that even those who seek office for altruistic purposes can’t help but fall victim to the mesmerizing rump shake of those insatiable deities called Greed and Power. (For what it’s worth, they do have great asses, but I guess that’s not really the point.) Sure, there’s always an exception, but in general, I’m sticking to my suspicions.

I offer this foray into my personal beliefs only to prove that I have no particular agenda in reviewing Craig Unger’s The Fall of the House of Bush. In reading this book, I was hoping to be educated and, perhaps, even a little entertained, since my scandar (that’s “scandal radar,” just so you know) immediately pinged upon hearing about this book. Was I educated? Well, perhaps. Ultimately, The Fall of the House of Bush will not sway you from your beliefs. A Bush supporter will have no problem finding fault with Unger, and a Bush critic will only too readily agree, so education here is relative. And as for entertainment … well, some parts were entertaining.

Unger clearly knows his subject. He’s written about the Bush family before (he’s also written House of Bush, House of Saud), and it seems that he is hellbent on single-handedly bringing down George W. Bush and the neocons, or neoconservative politicians. He’s not making blind assertions, either; in fact, to say that Unger has meticulously researched his subject would be an understatement, as Fall boasts roughly 50 pages of footnotes and about 10 pages of bibliography.

The title, however, is somewhat of a misnomer, as The Fall of the House of Bush goes beyond the Bush family and its influence on contemporary politics. In accounting for the “clash of civilizations” occurring today, Unger analyzes everything from the founding of our nation by the Puritans (which, he argues, resulted in America becoming a “Redeemer Nation” with a moral duty to save the world from tyranny), to the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which—and I’m oversimplifying here—basically puts Israel and Evangelicals on the same team, since both need the Temple Mount reclaimed to pave the way for the Messiah) to Vietnam (which illustrated Rumsfeld’s and Cheney’s love for warmongering despite any just cause).

Although it seems impossible to neatly summarize a book so sweeping in its scope (I know, I’ve been trying for what seems like ages), I’ll highlight some main points here. Unger asserts that the neocons, along with the Christian Right, are conspiring to take over the Middle East to further their own agenda, and Bush 43 has teamed up with them in order to further his own — and, perhaps just as importantly, to eclipse his father. In the process, Unger also traces the Machiavellian ascent of Rumsfeld (the youngest man ever to become Secretary of Defense) and Cheney (the youngest man ever to become Chief of Staff). Unger details the manipulation these men used to gain power, even in the face of one of their greatest personal enemies: George H.W. Bush. It was this animosity that in part led the younger Bush to hire them.

Unger’s exploration of the conflict between George W. Bush and his father was, to me, the most interesting part of the book. Unger asserts that, not surprisingly, Bush 43 has always resented his father’s achievements and felt he could never live up to his reputation. Unger argues that Dubya (whose political future was solidified when he, as a Born Again Christian, helped his father win the election by securing the Christian Right) planned to overthrow Saddam long before 9/11 in an attempt to outshine his father. According to Bush 43, presidents are only remembered for greatness in war, and in that arena, George W. Bush intended to beat his daddy. Perhaps scariest of all is Unger’s assertion that Bush isn’t yet finished — he plans to target Iran next.

Unger ends on a pessimistic note, wondering where we’d be today if the Bush administration had not squandered our resources on the war in Iraq. Even though I’m a generally a pessimist myself, it seems distasteful to end that way now. It’s an election year, and anything is possible.

Jennifer McKeown lives outside Philadelphia and reads more than she probably should. She blogs over at Bibliolatry.

Is It Over Yet?

The Fall of the House of Bush by Craig Unger / Jennifer McKeown

Books | January 16, 2008 |

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