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Uninvited author 

Kevin Phillips lambasts the Bush dynasty

Skip the subtitle, and you might mistake American Dynasty -- with its smiling father-son Bush photo on the cover -- for a celebration of our nation's two-fer presidency of Georges. The author, Kevin Phillips, also comes with impressive Republican credentials. Newsweek called his The Emerging Republican Majority "the political bible of the Nixon administration" (for the Southern strategy, not the masking tape trick), and he was a top Republican strategist for two decades.

So why did the Atlanta History Center first invite Phillips to speak on Feb. 25, then withdraw its invitation in late January? Or did the Center invite him?

Keep reading the subtitle on the dust cover: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of ... wait for it ... Deceit in the House of Bush. The book is a damning account of a four-generation dynasty funded with clandestine weapons deals, fueled with oil, secured with covert intelligence and asserted with outright political power.

Phillips, who is now registered as an independent, writes in American Dynasty of his "distaste for what George H.W. Bush seemed to represent -- a career built on support from a vague 'elite' rather than merit or democratic selection."

As first reported in the AJC, Phillips thinks the Atlanta History Center's decision to cancel his lecture was made by that "vague 'elite.'" He suspects Tommy Hills had something to do with it. Hills is chief financial officer to Sonny Perdue (whose candidacy George W. Bush supported and who Phillips criticized in an AJC op-ed piece last year), and is on the board of the History Center.

But Hills denies he was involved.

"The first I knew of Mr. Phillips or his book was when I read [the AJC article]," says Hills. "When I saw that perhaps I had in someway influenced the lack of invitation, needless to say I was stunned."

Granted, Phillips may be a little over-sensitive to hidden motivations and Machiavellian means. He has written an entire book about political intrigue; international money laundering; war profiteering; secret societies; backroom business deals with Nazis, Soviets and oppressive Middle Eastern regimes; and the intermingled populations of MI-5, OSS and the CIA.

"You can't really prove a lot of this ... but the smell is enough to suggest nose clips," says Phillips about the Bushes' coincidental proximity to the October Surprise, the Iran Contra affair and Iraqgate.

Beginning with George W.'s great-grandfathers -- George Herbert Walker and Samuel Prescott Bush -- American Dynasty carefully documents the unfolding of a plan to secure wealth, position and power for the Bush family. Were it a reign both competent and noble, we might overlook what Phillips called a "basic erosion of democratic and republican principles" that comes from so many people in power being chosen from a pool of interconnected elites.

But Phillips claims the Bushes "are bending public policy toward family grudges and interests," frequently making choices that are detrimental to global stability and American interests. "If they want to be president for some benign ideological purpose," he told me, "nobody's ever figured out quite what it is."

So was the Atlanta History Center's decision part of a right-wing conspiracy to suppress criticism of mighty King George? Well, maybe, but a less extraordinary collusion seems more likely. Andy Ambrose, deputy director of the Atlanta History Center and author of Atlanta: An Illustrated History, told me Phillips was one of many authors on a list of potential speakers for the History Center's series of lectures. "We always tell the publisher that this is just tentative, that it still has to go through the approval process." But Phillips' publicist, Yen Cheong, says she was "under the impression that it was confirmed." She had even provided the History Center with Phillips' home phone number so his flights and accommodations could be arranged.

Was Tommy Hills part of that approval process?

"The board doesn't have any role in choosing the speakers," says Hills. "The staff and in some cases the private sponsors of the series are the ones that make the decisions. I had absolutely no role."

According to Ambrose, the staff generates the list of authors, then presents it to the sponsors of each lecture for their feedback. Apparently none of the sponsors wanted Phillips for their lecture.

This is troubling in its own way, of course, if not quite as nakedly Machiavellian as Phillips suggests. It's another instance of decisions being made based "on support from a vague 'elite' rather than merit or democratic selection." A conspiracy to censor? Maybe not. But it still doesn't smell too good.

American Dynasty, by Kevin Phillips. Viking. $25.95. 397 pages.

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