Bush's team of 3,000 get on their bikes: Patrick Cockburn in Washington on bleak job prospects for Republicans

WHEN Barbara Bruin is sacked next month she will receive no severance pay and will probably be given only a few hours to clear her desk. 'One of the more depressing experiences in my life was going to the Justice Department's special seminar on how to claim unemployment benefit,' said Ms Bruin, a Republican political apppointee in the department, who will lose her job when Bill Clinton takes office.

Ms Bruin is one of 3,000 Republicans holding a job listed in the Plum Book, the volume which contains all the positions in the gift of an incoming president, and which will therefore pass to a Democrat with the change in the administration. For unemployed Republicans the prospects are bleak.

With the Democrats now in control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, Republican office-holders below the topmost ranks have little enough to sell.

Glen Roberts, a lobbyist for four big trade associations, says: 'If I was hiring, the fact that somebody knew the Bush people would be no recommendation. I want people who know Bill Clinton.' Ms Bruin, a conservative Republican in her early thirties from New Mexico, now regrets rejecting a job as prosecutor in a district attorney's office in Massachusetts earlier in the year, before it became evident that George Bush was likely to lose the White House. Job prospects in her home state are also poor and the legal profession as a whole is depressed.

White House staffers will have fewer problems. Some who have appeared frequently on television should be able to build on their notoriety. Marlin Fitzwater, the White House press secretary for six years, and Margaret Tutwiler, communications director for President Bush, are thinking of setting up a firm to advise clients on crisis management and product development.

Other leading Republicans had a head start. John Sununu, fired as White House chief of staff in 1991, turned this to good account by replacing Pat Buchanan, candidate of the Republican right in the primaries, on CNN's programme 'Crossfire', where he represents the right in opposition to the liberal Michael Kinsley. He also returned to his own engineering consulting firm. But lower down the Republican ranks these opportunities are not open because the job-holders facing dismissal in January were not well known or were political operatives without professional experience. Nor are they alone in the job market. In the November election, 110 congressmen and 10 senators retired or lost their seats; they employed 2,120 staff most of whom are looking for jobs.

The new congressmen will presumably produce a similar number of jobs but they do not yet have their official offices. They do, however, have boxes into which job seekers put their resumes: so far, each congressman has received an average of 2,000 applications.

In the intensely political atmosphere of Washington, even those who aren't looking for a post are interested in what is on offer. Glen Roberts, formerly legislative director on the staff of Democratic Senator Barbara Milkudski of Maryland, says: 'You half want the phone to ring even if you don't want the job.' Mr Roberts says that when he first came to Washington in 1981, he did not even bother to apply for a position until the dust had settled from the hirings and firings that accompanied Ronald Reagan's arrival in the White House.

A Democrat who was losing his job in the same transition recalls the clash of ideologies between the outgoing office-holders and the Reagan appointees. 'To them we were the guys destroying America,' he said. 'Out of the 10 guys I worked with, four or five became lobbyists, while I went back to foreign service.'

Political appointees are seldom popular with career office- holders. The Democrat who got back into the State Department says he was given 'the worst job available': monitoring the ceasefire between Egypt and Israel. For more than a year, he patrolled the torrid sands of Sinai dressed in an orange jump suit. 'If the State Department had owned a slave galley, they would have sent me to it,' he says.

Barbara Bruin says that the job hunt in Washington is made more difficult for her because the federal bureaucracy is overwhelmingly Democratic. Not that Republicans are alone in worrying about their job prospects.

Suddenly, Washington think tanks of liberal and Democratic persuasion, such as the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, regarded with suspicion by the Republicans, have become hotbeds of political activity and ambition. Democratic congressional staffers want to see their loyalty over 12 years rewarded with federal government positions that are also better paid.

For the lobbyists, promotions and demotions are worrying. The semi-conductor and steel lobbies were so disturbed that the former head of the International Trade Commission, Paula Stern, might get the post of US trade representative, that they produced a 'White Paper on Paula Stern' alleging thet 'she has not been a champion of US industries, US workers or of US unfair trade laws'. Her main sin was to have testified as an economist in favour of Japanese flat-panel display makers, who had been accused of exporting their products at unfairly low prices.

Ferocious competition for jobs is in keeping with the traditions of US presidential politics. Abraham Lincoln's collected papers during the Civil War are filled with letters about awarding minor positions in the post office or customs. In 1881, newly elected President James Garfield so disappointed Charles Guiteau, who had expected a government job, that Guiteau lay in wait for him at Union Station and shot him dead.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families