With a Colleague's Book Due Out, Ex-Bushies Play Out the Ritual of Anxiety

Matt Latimer apparently took a lot of notes while in the White House.
Matt Latimer apparently took a lot of notes while in the White House. (Courtesy Of The Strategy Center Llc - Courtesy Of The Strategy Center Llc)
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By Al Kamen
Monday, August 3, 2009

There's a growing nervousness these days among former Bush White House officials, Pentagon folks and some senators about what, precisely, is in a book coming out in September by Matt Latimer, former speechwriter to George W. Bush, defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, and GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the minority leader.

We're told some folks are even devising schemes to get their hands on "Speech-Less" to figure out, first, what's in it about them, and then how to deflect and rebut.

But, from what we understand, Latimer's often laugh-out-loud recollections of the chaos around him -- and he apparently took great notes -- don't reflect betrayal or bitterness but are more a memoir of how the sausage is made during times of electoral, economic and foreign-policy collapse.

Thus we hear what senior aides were saying privately after the Bush administration withdrew the Supreme Court nomination of White House Counsel Harriet Miers, or we find President Bush confiding wistfully (and sounding serious) that his dog, Barney, was the son he never had. Latimer was on Air Force One with Bush and Karl Rove after Rove announced his resignation.

We hear there's a story of how Rove spoofed the overly formal national security adviser Stephen Hadley's penchant for eating off a silver platter at late-night work sessions, while everyone else had cafeteria trays, by serving Hadley himself with a silver tray.

There are said to be interesting observations of some of his bosses on the Hill, including one who had trouble with basic facts and another who had a tendency to hide from his staff by barricading himself in his office.

Latimer's behind-the-scenes account reportedly names plenty of names in writing about what people around him really thought about John McCain, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, not to mention their reactions to Sarah Palin. And then there's Gates's handling of the "departure" of Marine Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Been a while since we checked in on former Justice Department voting-rights section chief John K. Tanner, a Loop Favorite who used to say some interesting things: for instance, that minorities "die first" and that he preferred his coffee "Mary Frances Berry style -- black and bitter," in a reference to the African American former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Loop fans may recall that his protege in the section, former acting deputy director Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, was accused in 2007 of collecting a $64 per diem, apparently including weekends and the Fourth of July that summer, for traveling to the Boston regional office -- when, in fact, she was hanging out with her family at their house on Cape Cod.

The department's Office of Professional Responsibility, moving with its customary lightning speed, determined recently that she had indeed "engaged in a pattern of conduct that abused the travel regulations." The OPR, in a letter June 24 to one of those who had accused her of improprieties, also said that "Tanner, the 'authorizing official' for nearly all of this travel, allowed her to do this" and thus both of them "violated the applicable travel rules and committed misconduct."

Lorenzo-Giguere, the OPR said, "submitted false travel vouchers claiming Boston meals and incidental expenses . . . when she was in fact on Cape Cod or in Maine."

Tanner, who was moved out of the voting-rights section late in 2007, retired from the department on July 3. He and Lorenzo-Giguere, who's still working there, may appeal the OPR's finding to the deputy attorney general and can appeal any proposed disciplinary action, the letter said. Unclear what discipline was being proposed.


Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), the senior Republican on the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit, fired off a statement early Friday after he learned that the House was going to consider re-funding the insanely popular Cash for Clunkers program, which ran through its $1 billion budget after only four days because so many people wanted to trade in their old cars for new ones that get better mileage.

"Cash for Clunkers is another example of the government picking winners and losers and enshrines us as a bailout nation," Hensarling railed. "Almost everyone is hurting in this economy, and sadly for many workers across East Texas and America, Pilgrim's Pride, one of the largest poultry producers in the country, recently had to file for bankruptcy. Where's their 'Cash for Cluckers' program?" he said.

Good point. While it's pretty hard to compare Pilgrim's Pride's 50,000 employees with the millions of workers nationwide who are directly or indirectly affected by the auto industry's woes -- we guess size is a factor the government uses when figuring out where to put stimulus money -- Hensarling's proposed program is indeed catchy.

And the focus on chickens is in keeping with the traditional use of the honored fowl in political discourse, dating in this country to the great ad by the Republican National Committee in the 1928 campaign that talked about "a chicken in every pot."

Might want to think of a different bird . . .

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