This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.
In May, the U.S. economy lost 345,000 nonfarm jobs, pushing the unemployment rate from 8.9% to 9.4%. According to official statistics, 14.5 million Americans are now looking for work and, as a recent headline at Time.com put it, "The jobs aren't coming back anytime soon." In fact, a team of economists at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank recently reported that "the level of labor market slack could be higher by the end of 2009 than at any other time in the post-World War Two period."
The news, however, is not altogether grim. While times are especially tough for teenagers (22.7% jobless rate) and blacks (14.9% jobless rate), one group is doing remarkably well. I'm talking about former members of the Bush administration who are taking up prestigious academic posts, inking lucrative book deals, signing up with speakers bureaus, joining big-time law firms and top public relations agencies, and grabbing spots on corporate boards of directors. While their high-priced wars, ruinous economic policies, and shredding of economic safety nets have proved disastrous for so many, for them the economic outlook remains bright and jobs are seemingly plentiful. In fact, many of them have performed the eye-opening feat of securing two or more potentially lucrative revenue streams at once during these tough financial times.
While it would likely take a small book to catalogue the fates of all former "loyal Bushies," a look at just a few of these fortunate folks indicates that not everybody was harmed by the Bush era.
Many of the top figures of the Bush years are joining the ranks of (or reaffirming their credentials as) men and women of letters. Following in the footsteps of 2003-2006 White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who wrote the tell-some exposé, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, is former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (2001-2006). Now penning his life story for Sentinel, a conservative imprint of the Penguin Group, he has announced that he is forgoing an advance and donating all proceeds to charity. Similarly, 2006-2009 Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is reportedly donating the "author's profits" from his forthcoming "insider's account of [his] experiences as Treasury Secretary." Many other former colleagues are, however, apparently intent on cashing in on their public service.
Last month, the New York Times reported that Rumsfeld's long-time pal, former Vice President Dick Cheney, "is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations" and seeking multi-millions. In the same way, back in 2007, Bush's right-hand man Karl Rove, aka his "brain," agreed, for a reported seven figures, to write a memoir for Simon & Schuster's conservative imprint Threshold. Earlier this year, Bush's first term National Security Advisor and second term Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, signed a gaudy three-book deal, reportedly worth at least $2.5 million, with Random House's Crown imprint.
Following her to Crown (also the publisher of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope) was former President Bush himself. His book, tentatively titled Decision Points, will reportedly recount "a dozen of the most interesting and important decisions in the former President's personal and political life" for a cool $7 million. Former First Lady Laura Bush has already inked a book deal with Scribner reportedly worth $3.5-5 million.
Only one prominent Bush loyalist who cared to try appears to have been unable to cash-in. In late 2008, the Wall Street Journal's Evan Perez reported that Alberto Gonzales, former White House counsel (2001-2005) and attorney general (2005-2007), "said he is writing a book to set the record straight about his controversial tenure as a senior official in the Bush administration," but could interest no publisher in the manuscript. This followed an earlier report in the New York Times that Gonzales had been "unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster..."
Law and Orders
One Bush administration lawyer who did land a job with a law firm was Gonzales's successor, Attorney General Michael Mukasey (2007-2009), who became a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, a firm "offering sophisticated legal services" which "places the highest value on collaboration and interdisciplinary cooperation in order to provide clients with seamless representation across practice areas and across continents."
Tommy Thompson, Bush's Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001-2005, is now a partner with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld where he "focuses on developing solutions for clients in the health care industry, as well as for companies doing business in the public sector." Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security from 2005–2009, is serving as "senior of counsel," and a "member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group" at the firm of Covington & Burling.
Meanwhile, Harriet Miers, who served Bush from 2001-2007 as Staff Secretary, Deputy Chief of Staff, and Counsel to the President—and whose Supreme Court bid crashed and burned in 2005—returned to Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell in May 2007 to serve as a member of the law firm's "Litigation and Public Policy sections." That firm is also home to Karin Torgerson, a partner who served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, one of several White House positions she held from 2003-2005.
In addition to his book-writing duties, former President Bush recently signed on with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which already represents his wife. The Bureau is to arrange lucrative speeches for him worldwide. In fact, just last month, the New York Times reported that the former president had "earned more than an estimated $150,000" to "discuss national and international policy" alongside fellow former President Bill Clinton at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.
Together the Bushes joined a speakers' roster of former administration heavyweights, including Richard Armitage (Deputy Secretary of State, 2001-2005), John Bolton (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 2005-2006), Andrew Card (White House Chief of Staff, 2001-2006), Ari Fleischer (White House Press Secretary, 2001-2003), Michael Mukasey, Colin Powell (Secretary of State, 2001-2005), Condoleezza Rice, Tom Ridge (Secretary of Homeland Security, 2003-2005), Donald Rumsfeld, and John Snow (Secretary of the Treasury, 2003-2006), as well as Bush family consigliere James Baker III.
Meanwhile, at Leading Authorities, another top-of-the-line speakers bureau, the list of ex-Bush loyalists includes Dan Bartlett (Counselor to the President, 2002-2007), Christopher Cox (Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, 2005-2009), Ed Gillespie (Counselor to the President, 2007-2009), Porter Goss (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 2005-2006), Stephen Hadley (National Security Advisor, 2005-2009), Michael Hayden (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, 2006-2009), Keith Hennessey (Director of the National Economic Council, 2007-2009), Dana Perino (White House Press Secretary, 2007-2009), and Margaret Spellings (Secretary of Education, 2005-2009).
A third lecturers' stable, the Leigh Bureau, boasts John Negroponte who served Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador to Iraq, Director of National Intelligence, and Deputy Secretary of State.
Talking Heads and Lobbyists
Some Bush loyalists have nabbed other sorts of speaking gigs. Karl Rove, for one, took a job as an analyst for Fox News. (He also writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and, in 2007, signed a two-year deal to be a columnist for Newsweek magazine.)
Ari Fleischer was hired as a media consultant to the Green Bay Packers in 2008 and serves as the president of Ari Fleischer Communications, Inc., which bills itself as a "unique media training and consultancy company [that] brings to the world of sports the lessons of how to successfully handle the toughest situations with the most aggressive reporters." (Clients reportedly include Major League Baseball, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, and "several other leading sports figures.")
Many more Bush loyalists, however, are involved in another lucrative form of communication. For example, Michael Chertoff quickly launched the Chertoff Group, a consulting firm that "will advise clients on a range of security concerns, including cyber security, terrorism, fraud, border protection and supply-chain security." Tom Ridge, when not serving as a keynote-speaker-for-hire (as he did recently at the 2009 CoBank Energy Directors Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado) is now a security and crisis-management consultant for his own firm, Ridge Global, whose self-professed "expertise encompasses risk management and global trade security, leadership guidance and strategic business generation, event security, crisis management and communications, campus security, technology innovation and integration and more."
In fact, a recent analysis by USA TODAY found that "more than one in four members of President George W. Bush's Cabinet have landed jobs with consulting or lobbying firms in which they can help clients navigate the departments they once oversaw." And it's not just heads of executive departments like Homeland Security who are cashing in.
John Ashcroft (Attorney General, 2001-2005) co-founded the Ashcroft Group, a strategic consulting firm that advises and invests "in companies in the security and law enforcement marketplaces." Not surprisingly, the firm has become a home for Bush loyalists like Juleanna Glover, who served on the senior staffs of then President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and was then "the registered U.S. government affairs advisor for Iraq's first post-Saddam Hussein ambassador to the United States."
Recently, according to the Quad City Times, Jim Nussle, Bush's director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (2007-2009) "formed a company that will offer consulting, government relations and lobbying services." The Nussle Group, its website proclaims, "specializes in recruiting a talented team and developing creative solutions to assist clients in navigating the complicated and challenging intersections of public policy, government relations, public relations, international relations and politics."
According to his company bio, the senior policy director at lobbying powerhouse Dutko Worldwide, Gene Hickok, "joined the George W. Bush Administration as Under Secretary of Education. He became Deputy Secretary in 2003 [and] was an architect of the No Child Left Behind Act." And he isn't alone. Kent Sholars, a Senior Associate at Dutko, "was a political appointee during both terms of the administration of George W. Bush, serving as the Confidential Assistant to the Controller for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, DC," while Karen Yeager, a Dutko vice president, "serve[d] in the White House for President Bush in 2001."