Though George W. Bush left office with the reputation of a technological lummox — infamously using the term “Internets” — his former staffers are using their tech savvy to stay connected. Despite a handful of established Facebook groups for those who worked in the Bush administration, an effort is under way to create an online social network — for Bushies only.
Tony Fratto, a former deputy press secretary who currently heads the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association, is spearheading the charge. He told POLITICO this week that that Web developers are currently hard at work experimenting with mock-ups, and he predicts a site will launch in a few months.
“Compared to the previous administration, we are coming out when technology makes it really easy to stay connected because you can do this kind of thing,” Fratto said. “Bush 41 or Reagan, they were on paper. And even for Clinton, you didn’t have this.”
Currently, the online effort has been coordinated at www.43alumni.com, which by its appearance seems to be primarily dedicated to the cause of vindicating the former president’s record in office.
"We were there,” the site reads. “And as members of the team, we know the difference between rumor, reality, fact, and fiction. This is our chance to stand up, speak up and set the record straight."
Although the site promises to “provide up-to-date news on the Bushes’ and Cheneys’ post-White House activities,” its last update was in May, and the section dedicated to “setting the record straight” remains conspicuously blank.
As Fratto describes it, the new venture will put greater focus on the networking component. And he expects potentially thousands to sign up.
The “Bush-Cheney Administration Alumni” group on Facebook currently has more than 400 members, and former press secretary Ari Fleischer says the site has worked well enough to keep him tied in with his former colleagues, as well as hundreds of ex-White House advance staffers who have “friended” him over the past year or so.
Facebook, however, is fairly hostile territory for the former president, with numerous groups dedicated to his condemnation. Unlike his successor, President Barack Obama, and his predecessor, Bill Clinton, Bush does not have an official “fan page.” Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes served as an online coordinator for Obama’s presidential campaign.
A Bill Clinton Facebook alumni group started by former presidential speechwriter David Halperin, who is now a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, currently has more than 700 members.