February 27, 2015
Amazon has hired Jay Carney; Melville House to hire ex-Bush Administration officials
by Mark Krotov
Yesterday, “legendary hoarder” and newsletterman Mike Allen reported that former White House press secretary Jay Carney will join Amazon next week. Carney’s new title is “senior vice president for Worldwide Corporate Affairs,” which is different from his current title, “CNN talking head and unusually intense Guided by Voices fan.”
It’s always nice when politicians—and especially presidential administration officials—go to work for big and/or terrible corporations, because it casts their tenure into rather stark relief. While politicians are in power, they possess a nominal—though wholly non-binding—commitment to democracy, which makes the inevitable shift to the business sector is deeply refreshing: citizens no longer have to entertain even the slightest suspicion that their leaders are anything other than corporate shills, and said leaders are free to do most of the things they were doing before, just without the annoying “public interest” overlay.
Which is to say that Carney is now free to do what the Obama administration has already been doing for years: namely, advocate on behalf of Amazon. Hooray for transparency! Three cheers for the absence of ambiguity of motive! All hail a system that normalizes—nay, embraces—the revolving door!
All of which led us to an idea that seems obvious in retrospect: why not hire some ex-politicians of our own? Some patriotic Americans who would do our bidding in the steakhouses of Capitol Hill, the TV studios of Midtown Manhattan, and, indeed, the publishing offices of Dumbo. But which Americans?
We looked around, and no one seemed more underworked and underchallenged than former members of the George W. Bush administration. These people were spending their time publishing b-list business books and working at places like the Global Center for Business and the Economy, an institution that sounds so bland that it has to be either fake or a front. (It’s probably a front.) Surely every ex-Bush administration official would leap at the opportunity to put their skills to tangible, creative work.
Despite Melville House’s . . . complicated relationship with Bush and his team, we are thrilled to announce the hiring of the following men and women, along with their new titles.
While George W. Bush himself may have been an obvious choice for the job, Melville House has never let the obvious get in the way of the correct. And so while former attorney general John Ashcroft may be better known these days for his oxymoronic role as ethics advisor at Blackwater, we remember him fondly as a man who fought for visual standards. We’re speaking, of course, about the $8,000-curtain purchased to cover up a semi-nude statue, Spirit of Justice, so that Ashcroft wouldn’t have to appear in the same frame as a nude breast. This profound commitment to aesthetics—no matter the cost, the logic, or the utility—is just the kind of spirit we’re looking for in an art director. Aschroft has tried his hand at song; why not book covers?
Director of Publicity
Anyone can promote books with clarity and directness, but has any book publisher tried their hand at the opposite thereof—namely, malevolent obfuscation? The man who brought us known unknowns and communicated with his staff via deep thought-like “snowflakes” is going to bring a new wave of elision and secrecy to all Melville House communications. Are you a reviewer who wants to know what a book is about? Too bad—it’s a dangerous world out there, and there some things you shouldn’t know.
Christine Todd Whitman
An editor’s task is to imagine a book in its very best form—even if that form might, at first, seem vague and elusive. But an editor must also possess a keen feel for the redundant—and a determination to remove anything that contradicts a book’s larger vision. Thus there’s no one better suited to an editorial role than Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. In March 2001, Whitman famously oversaw the withdrawal of Clinton-era rules that limited the amount of arsenic in drinking water. This dedication to the Bush administration’s core mission (seemingly, the increase in the possibility of the poisoning of children) and the equal refutation of the Clinton administration’s core mission (seemingly, the decrease in the possibility of the poisoning of children) will make Whitman an ideal editor—she will be an en enemy of all excess.
L. Paul Bremer
A managing editor has what sounds like an impossible task: uphold order at all costs, and keep chaos at bay, no matter what. But if there’s one member of the Bush administration who showed a propensity for exactly this kind of clear thinking, it was L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq. Bremer famously guided Iraq to peace and prosperity in the aftermath of the American invasion—imagine how successful he’ll be at Melville House, where he doesn’t even have to worry about disbanding an army!
Director of Online Marketing
Branding is everything, and we all know what makes a good a brand representative: total, unironic loyalty to the superiority of said brand. It’s rare that one statement can be enough to make someone the perfect candidate for a job, but it happens. When Harriet Miers famously referred to George W. Bush as the most brilliant man she had ever met, she showed herself to be a truly exceptional exemplar of brand loyalty. She’ll surely apply the same enthusiasm to David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules as she did to her old boss.
Dick Cheney will spend his days at Melville House repeatedly applying labels to a single envelope. Each of these labels, which will be handed to him by other members of the staff, will contain a subtle typo, and each time he’s ready to send the envelope out, he will be called out for attempting to send typo-ridden mail that, because of his inattention, may not have made it to its destination. May the endless, Sisyphean task of trying and failing to send one letter remind of him of his own commitment to repetition.
Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.