The Bush Sell-Off
It's all in the timing.
Two moderately prominent investors in Team Bush—Matthew Dowd, Bush's one-time pollster and chief campaign strategist, and Vic Gold, who ghosted one book with Bush père and co-authored another with Lynne Cheney—are rather noisily dumping their shares. Dowd gave an interview on the front page of the April 1 New York Times. Gold gave one on April 2 in the Washington Post's Style section and is peddling a new book about his disenchantment titled Invasion of the Party-Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP.
Dowd and Gold were preceded in their sell-off by Kenneth Adelman, a former member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board who told The New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg of his disillusion with his old friend Don Rumsfeld in a Nov. 20 "Talk of the Town"; David Kuo, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who in October poured out his heart to 60 Minutes and to Beliefnet.com, and in his book Tempting Faith; Paul O'Neill, Bush's treasury secretary, who leaked 19,000 memos from the White House, National Security Council, and Treasury Department to journalist Ron Suskind for his book The Price of Loyalty (published in January 2004) and also tattled extensively to 60 Minutesand Time; and John Dilulio, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who decried (again to Suskind, this time in Esquire) the nonexistence of serious policy discussion in the Bush White House in January 2003.
The various fates of the defectors would seem to indicate that Team Bush is the rare market where it doesn't pay to get ahead of the crowd.
By far the greatest humiliation endured by the above-mentioned Bush defectors rained down on the earliest bird of all, Dilulio. Within seconds of the Esquire piece hitting the stands, the White House was able to wring a series of groveling public apologies. The White House achieved this, it has been whispered, by scrutinizing the Venn diagram of rich people who gave both to the Bush campaign and to the University of Pennsylvania, where Dilulio taught. Some fat-cat Bushie Penn alumnus was then dispatched to instruct the Penn administration (or perhaps Dilulio himself; this part's unclear) that Dilulio's rude comments might prove costly to university fund-raising if they weren't retracted with all deliberate speed.
O'Neill was another early bird. One would think he'd have been rendered immune from such pressures by his personal wealth. But somehow, upon publication of The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill was persuaded to apologize for telling Suskind that Bush acted like "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." The leverage here may have been the retaliatory Treasury investigation into whether O'Neill's leaks had broken the law. (He hadn't, and O'Neill was cleared.)
By comparison, Johnny-come-latelies Dowd and Gold seem to be getting off easy. Of Dowd (who also laid into Bush in the March Texas Monthly), White House counselor Dan Bartlett said only, "[Y]ou can respectfully disagree with someone who has been supportive of you." Lynne Cheney phoned to ask Gold about his book; after he explained what it was, she merely said, "I am sorry to hear that." If more thuggy responses are occurring behind the scenes, they don't seem to be eliciting apologies. Where are the kneecappers of yesteryear? Looking for a candidate for '08, I guess—preferably one who distances himself from George W. Bush. The only downside to deserting Bush at this late hour is that sooner or later all the best media outlets will be used up. Please note, however, that Slate's dance card is still free. If you are a reasonably visible Bush loyalist who would like to declare the current administration a complete disaster, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You'd better make it good, though. This story's starting to get old.
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.