THE PRESIDENT OF GOOD AND EVIL: The Ethics of George W. Bush
Peter Singer. Dutton, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 0-525-94813-9

This book by controversial ethicist Singer (a founder of the animal rights movement) is both broader and narrower than it purports to be. It offers a look at almost every significant policy the administration has taken a position on yet offers little in the way of new philosophic inquiry. Singer pits Bush’s rhetoric and prescriptions against his actions, going from the topical (terror detainees, the war in Iraq) to the abstract (utilitarian theories of government). Singer’s arguments are often reasonable and well documented: he asks whether an administration that emphasizes smaller government should be intervening in state right-to-die cases and whether someone so vocal about the value of individual merit should be rewarding birthright by eliminating the estate tax. But anyone who has followed recent critiques of the administration would learn nothing new from these familiar arguments and conclusions, such as that the justification for the Iraq war might have been problematic. Singer’s logic can also be mushy. A chapter that decries the influence of religion on Bush’s policy dissolves into vague, emotional language better suited to a TV pundit than a philosopher. Singer’s most intellectually adventurous chapter involves stem-cell research, where the author exposes fissures in Bush’s “compromise” to allow research on existing stem-cell lines. But mostly Singer’s critique does little to distinguish itself from other anti-Bush books. (Mar.)

BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species
Laura Flanders. Verso, $22 (278p) ISBN 1-85984-587-8

The thesis of radio host Flanders’s searing, incisive polemic is that prominent female conservatives in the current administration are the candy coating in which George “W. Is for Women” Bush enrobes a bitter, radical policy. Devoting a chapter to each, Flanders (Real Majority, Media Minority) takes to task women like National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao for betraying the causes—affirmative action, civil rights and feminism—that helped them rise to prominence, while allowing the Republican Party to use them as identity politics puppets for expanding its minority voting base. They, along with former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Secretary of the Interior Gale Ann Norton, have, Flanders contends, been given an easy ride by national media more interested in their fashion choices and family history than in the jobs, lands and freedoms they’ve eliminated during their tenure. Then there are what Flanders says are the Bushwomen’s conflicts of interest and government valentines to corporate concerns, such as destroying previously protected grizzly bear habitat to please logging interests. Along the way, Flanders provides a powerful account of how the government’s social agencies have been systematically disabled—or so she claims—over the past 20 years by the very people hired to head them. Fierce, funny and intelligent, Bushwomen fills in an important gap left by other anti-Bush books. (Mar. 8)
Forecast:To launch this title, Verso has obtained endorsements from Susan Sarandon, Eve Ensler, Amy Goodman, Jill Nelson and Blanche Wiesen-Cook; 11-city author tour.

THE BOOK ON BUSH: How George W. (Mis)leads America
Eric Alterman and Mark Green. Viking, $24.95 (440p) ISBN 0-670-03273-5

Examining the Bush administration’s record on domestic and foreign policy issues, Alterman (What Liberal Media?) and former New York City public advocate Green see a pattern of dissimulation to promote the interests of the religious right, big business and neoconservative radicals. The two progressive champions make no effort to hide their dislike of Bush, branding him an “affirmative-action-legacy student” lacking knowledge and brain power. But the weight of their evidence and their reasonable tone make it difficult to dismiss them as ideologues. Though David Corn recently covered this territory in The Lies of George W. Bush, Alterman and Green provide more up-to-the-minute information on several issues, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s withholding of information about potential health risks to residents of lower Manhattan after 9/11. They also document a disregard for truth displayed by other administration officials and by Bush’s federal judicial appointees. From this voluminous record emerges a portrait of Bush as an ideological bully who knows how to “fake left and drive to the right,” passing himself off as a populist while launching initiatives that benefit only his hardcore supporters. Expect liberal cognoscenti to back this book in droves as the election campaigns heat up. (Feb. 9)

AMERICAN DYNASTY: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
Kevin Phillips. Viking, $25.95 (384p) ISBN 0-670-03264-6

Political and economics commentator Phillips (The Politics of Rich and Poor, etc.) believes we are facing an ominous time: “As 2004 began, [a] Machiavellian moment was at hand. U.S. president George W. Bush... was a dynast whose family heritage included secrecy and calculated deception.” Phillips perceives a dangerous, counterdemocratic trend toward dynasties in American politics—he cites the growing number of sons and wives of senators elected to the Senate as an example. Perhaps less convincingly, he compares the “restoration” of the Bushes to the White House after an absence of eight years to the royal restorations of the Stuarts in England in 1660 and the Bourbons in France in 1814. To underscore the dangers of inherited wealth and power, Phillips delineates a complex case involving a network of moneyed influence going back generations, as well as the Bushes’ long-time canny involvement in oil and foreign policy (read: CIA) and, he says, bald-faced appeasement of the nativist/fundamentalist wing that, according to Phillips, is now “dangerously” dominating the GOP. Casting a critical eye at the entire Bush clan serves the useful function of consolidating a wealth of information, especially about forebears George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush. Phillips’s own status as a former Republican (now turned independent) boosts the force of his argument substantially. Not all readers will share Phillips’s alarmist response to the Bush “dynasty,” but his book offers an important historical context in which to understand the rise of George W. (On sale Jan. 5)