'Radical religion,' Bush policies threaten security, author contends
By Peter Smith
April 26, 2006
A dangerous brew of "radical religion," a short-sighted oil policy and massive national debt threatens the nation's security, political analyst Kevin Phillips told a Louisville crowd last night.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered at Bellarmine University to hear Phillips, a former Republican strategist who accurately predicted four decades ago that the GOP would gain power as populations shifted from traditional Democratic strongholds to the Sun Belt.
But Phillips now laments the direction he said the party and President Bush are taking.
He said the country has "overreached" by exercising military power around the world and is threatened by becoming the "world's leading debtor" and being increasingly dependent on foreign oil.
Phillips said it is "farcical" for the Bush administration to deny that the Iraq invasion had anything to do with oil.
"Can people picture Dick Cheney waking up in the morning saying, `What are we going to do to democratize Iraq today?'" he asked.
But Phillips focused mostly on the growing role of evangelical Christians in the Republican Party, which he called the "first American religious party."
"The Republican Party shows in the polls as having a much, much higher percentage of people who believe that ... religion and politics should mix than people who are in the middle politically," Phillips said.
This "has enormous crossover into policy in other areas, whether it's foreign policy or U.S. ability to maintain a world-dominating scientific policy," he said.
Phillips said it's important to have an educational system that trains people who "believe in science as opposed to creationism."
Phillips spoke as part of the Wyatt Lecture Series, which brings high-profile authors to Bellarmine. His talk followed the outline of his new book, "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century."
Phillips compared the United States to historical world powers that went into decline, including ancient Rome and colonial Spain, the Netherlands and Britain.
All of them, he said, went heavily into debt and were enthralled with apocalyptic and aggressive religious movements.
Phillips said leaders of the religious right view Bush as their standard-bearer. He cited anecdotes of Bush comments — some of them disputed by the White House — that the president thinks he's divinely guided.
Phillips said he worries how that might influence Bush's view of a possible confrontation in the Middle East.
"You may get blood and craters and death and everything, but after that you get the Second Coming and wonderful times," he said, but only for "saved Christians."
Phillips said the best that can be said about the opposition Democrats is that they are "inert."
"These are not the sharpest tacks in the hardware store," he said.
Phillips' message resonated with many in the crowd.
"I'm a religious person, but I think radical religion is very, very scary," said Louis Twyman of Louisville. "I hope we don't form that American theocracy."
Louisville resident Vanessa Shepherd agreed.
"To me, church and state should be very separate," she said. "With this administration, I get a little frightened that the two are being mixed."
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.