For many of President Bush’s critics, the fact that he is now seeking work in the worst job market in a generation is poetic justice. As Bush noted in his farewell press conference, he is too much of a Type A for “the big straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, sitting on some beach.” (He might want to reconsider: Thanks to the recession, tropical resorts are running great promotions.)
Given recent history, Bush probably expects to profit from ex-presidency. Bill Clinton reported income of more than $90 million from 2000-07. But Bush is very unlikely to earn Clintonian numbers. Ex-presidents peddle image, presence, and experience. In Bush’s case, each is tarnished. To aggravate matters, many of the industries in which ex-presidents make easy money are a) doing poorly, and b) based in the Washington-Boston corridor where Bush hostility runs deep.
I think this is probably wrong and at the end of the day Bush’s unpopularity will probably have only a mild negative impact on his future earnings. For one thing, itt’s a mistake to try to generalize about which industries are the ones “in which ex-presidents make easy money.” Bush’s actions in office should have earned him the undying loyalty of the core GOP business base in the oil, coal, pharmaceutical, defense contracting, and agribusiness industries. It’s true that given the recession these firms may not be able to be as generous as they would in other times. But by the same token, their continued profitability depends heavily on their ability to convince today’s politicians that loyal friends of industry will be taken care of. If Bush really wants money, the money will be found.