At some point, members of President Bush’s cabinet began to decide that their work was too difficult or not rewarding enough, or maybe they were just getting embarrassingly knee deep in uh-oh. In response to the stress of fighting an abstract noun instead of a country or perhaps in response to a figurehead of evil who’d moved into a luxury cave, White House staff members slowly began to trickle out of office. Previously hidden memos and mementoes started to surface and stir up flurries of melodramatic media coverage. Bush’s desk became cluttered with letters of resignation.
But a resignation doesn’t grant entrance to political heaven or the rest of your days frozen inside a 10th grade American history book; you probably still have to work.
In many cases, resignation is a polite, autonomous way of being fired. It’s a personal admission that someone was dancing too close to corruption. It’s a good way to leave office before ending up like Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Ducking out early leaves room for gainful employment in other sectors, mostly business.
Here’s a list of a few White House officials who have resigned (or been convicted), why it happened, and where they are now – to the extent that we know.
John David Ashcroft, first of all, does not have a flattering official picture. A former Attorney General, Ashcroft penned his resignation letter in ink on November 2, 2004 but it wasn’t made public until a week later.
As you may recall, something else important was going on November 2, 2004.
John Ashcroft was one of the first high-profile members of Bush’s cabinet to resign. Following his departure, he was appointed to a professorship in the schools of Law and Government at Regent University, “the nation’s academic center for Christian thought and action.”
His White House accomplishments are truly prolific. He claims in his resignation letter that “the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved,” as we can all attest to today. He continues to say that “corporate integrity has been restored…”
Perhaps that’s why Ashcroft set up a lobbying office, The Ashcroft Group, LLC, within two years of leaving the White House. The lobby “understands the value of wisdom and sound judgment during a national and corporate crisis” – especially now that our safety has been achieved. As the Attorney General on board for the baptism of the War on Terror, he probably has a pretty good idea of where to look for lucrative Homeland Security contracts as well as those important connections necessary to, well, make things happen. This may or may not be the intended meaning of “strategic consulting for corporations worldwide.”
Donald Henry Rumsfeld has actually been the Secretary of Defense twice. He started out working for Ford in the 70s, and then rejoined the crew with Bush – up until November 6, 2006. His resignation had to do with “the situation in Iraq,” which, so he writes, “has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” In other words, Ashcroft’s claim that we’re all safe and sound was fine, as long as the troops and their safety weren’t taken into consideration.
Now out of the White House, Rumsfeld has reputedly begun planning a new educational foundation. In September of 2007, he joined the ranks of the Hoover Institution, a conservative/libertarian think tank near Stanford University, to mull over “ideology and terror” (two good ways to get elected) in the post 9/11 world.
But NYT Foreign Affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, in his efforts to pander to a wider readership, may have just put him out of a job. Or put himself out of a job.
Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress. Or maybe he didn’t – I don’t recall. Apparently he didn’t either. He repeated the phrase “I don’t recall” during a Congressional hearing so many times that it simply lost all meaning. Then he switched to “recollection” and did the same, drilling his way through phrases of forgetfulness until nobody remembered anything but the absence of a memory.
If the Attorney General can’t remember what he did in two years, how can we expect him to remember two hundred years of case law?
Anyways, it’s too soon for Gonzales to be doing much, as his resignation took effect only about 2 weeks ago, on September 17. He did get a nice goodbye dinner, though.
President Bush lauded him in an interview with the BBC, claiming that Gonzales “worked tirelessly to keep this country safe,” much like Ashcroft and Rumsfeld. Perhaps the country’s safety comes at the cost of personal and professional integrity.
Moral of the story?
There is nothing particularly special about the Bush administration’s long list of resignations. Most administrations don’t make it all the way through without a little muckraking carpentry work on their cabinet. This list barely touches on the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are many more resignations and even a juicy conviction or two. That said, should it bother us that those who run our country seem to vacillate between so-called public service and incubation in ideological think tanks? Should we worry over their service to the exploitatively high-profit-seeking world of big business?
It’s also instructive to note how quickly these resignations fade from public view. Nobody particularly cares once the seat is vacant because it gets filled up again just as quickly, and the filling of the empty seat snags as much attention as the reasons for its vacancy. Back to the ideological incubator. Back to the extortionist, usurious practices of ever-bigger business. Or, back to the world of higher education, to make an impression on young minds like ours.