A sobering examination of the twin fundamentalisms that shape the current administration internally—to say nothing of the one it’s supposed to be fighting.
Compassionate conservatism? Nice, disarming rhetoric, writes Unger (Center on Law and Security/New York Univ.; House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties, 2004, etc.)—but merely a way of reframing the argument so that “the entire political spectrum—everyone from hardcore theocrats to liberal secularists—supported policies that would aid the Christian Right.” The gloves came off as soon as Bush II entered the White House and turned operations over to the very neoconservatives whom his father had largely frozen out of power, writes Unger in a bit of psychodrama at the opening of the book, giving the son’s repudiation of the father appropriately tragic undertones. The neocons—most of them former leftists and most of them without any apparent religious beliefs—made unlikely allies for the Christian right-wingers who entered government in droves on Bush’s ascension, but they had many interests in common, including pressing the battle against Islam and advancing the American empire. Most of these fundamentalists, religious and political, notes Unger, have been idealists without much grounding in the real world—one reason, perhaps, that all band together in detesting Henry Kissinger, that master of realpolitik. But, however ethereal their thinking, they have plenty of real-world effects. Unger works much the same territory as Kevin Phillips did in his American Theocracy (2005), and he turns in plenty of news. One interesting bit: Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state so instrumental in putting Bush in office in 2000, was an acolyte of the same fundamentalists who pushed Jerry Falwell and company into secular politics—and, as an aside, she helped see to it that more than a quarter of the votes cast in Florida were not recounted, contrary to law.
What next? Fundamentalists and neocons alike have been thoroughly discredited—but, Unger hints, there’s still plenty of damage yet to come. Armageddon, anyone?