How We Applied for a Job in the Bush Administration — and Didn't Even Get a Rejection Letter

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TO: Bush-Cheney Transition Team
1616 Anderson Rd.
McLean, VA 22102

Dear Deadbeats:

So much for all those pledges of civility. So much for "changing the tone." So much for "a kinder, gentler" — wait a minute. That was Dad.

Still, more than two months ago, when the Bush-Cheney administration was still but a gleam in William Rehnquist's eye, we opened our hearts, and we allowed ourselves to believe. Seeking only to serve our country, we went to the Bush-Cheney transition web site and giddily sent you our résumés. We had but one small expectation: That someone, somewhere, in that vast transition team of yours would take the time to glance over the record of our professional lives before rejecting us.

Instead, what do we get? Silence. Horrible, cold silence.

Not a word from you — even though you promise on the site that "You will be sent an e-mail or card indicating that your application has been received."

Amidst all this talk of uniting, you've pulled us apart like a pack of wild dogs going after a Chateaubriand. Even the Clintons would have sent us form letters. You know: "Thanks very much for your application to be under-under secretary of clean socks, blah blah, afraid you're not a suitable match, blah blah." Sure, it would have been a rejection, but it would have had the presidential seal on it and we could have tucked the letters away to show the pups: "Look, kids, a rejection letter from the Bush administration. No, no not that Bush administration. The other one." And for one shining moment, we'd look back, eyes slightly glazed over, remembering the small part we played in American history.

Instead, we're stuck making excuses to our co-workers, most of who have taken to giggling uncontrollably whenever the topic of our Beltway job search comes up. We were never serious, we say (especially to our bosses). We thought it would just be a lark, we say, and we laugh. But behind the laughter, we, for perhaps the first time, truly know pain.

Before we continue, full disclosure: We in no way feel that we are qualified to run PBS. Or to hold a high position at the OMB. Or even, really, to sweep out the foyer at the Air & Space Museum. All of which we applied for. And neither of us expects that this letter will change anyone's mind in the new administration, or give us a better chance at that great government pension in the sky. We just want to set the record straight, and to perhaps warn other soft-hearted folks who, foundering in the tempest-toss'd seas of contemporary employment, have set their compass needles square on the sweet, sheltering shores that are the Washington job market.

One of us, who shall remain unnamed — largely because her parents would not be at all pleased to hear about this baby step toward the dark side, a.k.a. the GOP — applied for pretty much every job in the administration. And thanks to the magic of the Internet, it only took her three or four minutes. Check off a few boxes, scroll down a couple of listings, cut and paste a résumé, and that's it — you're in the running to become secretary of state. Isn't America great?

We thought so too, until the weeks of waiting turned to months and the reality of the situation set in. No one cared. No one was even going to give us the courtesy of a response — not even that promised form e-mail, for Pete's sake. For a while longer, we just waited. It did occur to us that a lot of the jobs we wanted were being filled pretty quickly. Condoleezza Rice and Tommy Thompson swiped two of the really prime spots right off the bat, and it took us a few days to get over that disappointment, let us tell you.

We've even called the Bush-Cheney transition offices, and spoke with two very nice volunteers, both of whom assured us that they'd call us (subtext: We should really restrain ourselves from calling them). The actual response was, "We will be calling if we want an interview, but it will definitely take a few months, because we're starting with the highest offices and working our way down." After another round of questions, we were told that this process could actually take a year. Oh. Hmm. Well, we certainly hope all this kvetching hasn't hurt our chances any.

Maybe it's all for the best, though. While at least one set of our parents would have been so proud of our Cabinet-level positions, we've heard horror stories about previously normal people who went to Washington and returned hollow shells of their former selves. Apparently, we're not a nation of Mr. Smiths. More like a nation of Dan Rostenkowskis. We've heard about shedding all irony and sarcasm and adopting that unflattering "I'm a public servant, I'm here to serve" pseudo-sincerity. And yes, we (well, one of us anyway) have also heard about those horrible mid-calf-length skirts.

So maybe once the crushing disappointment of rejection lifts and we're able to wean ourselves off these antidepressants, we can move on with our lives and forget that our government — you know, the one of, by and for the people — has forsaken us without so much as a backward glance. And if not, we'll just find a nice deserted cabin in the middle of Montana, buy some camouflage and a copy of "The Anarchist's Cookbook" and start working on improving our résumés for 2004.

Here's hoping you found some really fantastic people to fill those jobs that were apparently too good for us.


Mark Coatney
Jessica Reaves