Former Republican strategist-turned-Republican critic Kevin Phillips, now a bestselling author with such titles as American Dynasty (about the Bush family) and Wealth and Democracy, is at it again with his brand-new tome American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. (Ah, it's a title after my own criminally prolix heart.) The book hit stores yesterday, and according to his publisher, Viking, Phillips "identifies the role of oil in American foreign policy, the intrusion of radical Christianity into politics, and the explosion of debt, and links them in a frightening vision of the future of America and the world." Sounds like something I'll get to in the summer around the pool at the Jewish Community Center.
But I bring it up because of Phillips' references to Tim LaHaye, the Left Behind author making a mint scaring the bejeezus out of the God-fearin'. As I am sure most of you know--or should know, because The Rapture is right around the corner--LaHaye co-founded the Pre-Trib Research Center in Arlington back in 1994, with his pal and pastor Tommy Ice, who is no relation to Vanilla Ice so far as I can tell. In his preface, the entirety of which is available here for those sure I am taking this out of context, Phillips has this to say about LaHaye's hit books and their impact on Dubya's foreign policy:
Consider, then, the publishing success of end-times preacher Tim LaHaye, earlier the politically shrewd founder (in 1981) of the Washington-based Council for National Policy. Beginning in 1994 LaHaye successfully coauthored a series of books on the rapture, the tribulation, and the road to Armageddon that has since sold some sixty million copies in print, video, and cassette forms. Evangelist Jerry Falwell hailed it as probably the most influential religious publishing event since the Bible. Several novels of the Left Behind series rose to number one on the New York Times fiction bestseller list, and the series as a whole almost certainly reached fifteen to twenty million American voters. Political aides in the Bush White House must have read several volumes, if only for pointers on constituency sentiment.
In that respect, the books were highly informative. LaHaye's novels furnished hints rarely discussed by serious publications as to why George W. Bush's 2002—2003 call for war in Iraq included jeering at the United Nations, harped on the evil regime in Baghdad, and pretended that democracy, not oil, was the motive. LaHaye had authored essentially that plot almost a decade earlier. His evil antichrist, who had a French financial adviser and rose to power through the United Nations, was headquartered in New Babylon, Iraq, not far from the Baghdad of Bush's arch-devil, Saddam Hussein. The fictional Tribulation Force, which fought in God's name, represented goodness and had nothing to do with oil, which was one of the antichrist's evil chessboards.
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Or, as Bill Moyers said last year: "The delusional is no longer marginal." Hey, hey, lahaye, don't blame me. Phillips, a senior strategist for Richard Nixon in 1968, quotes Moyers too--about three sentences after the material referenced above. --Robert Wilonsky