Ex-Bush Aides on Kennedy's Turf

'Axis of Evil' speechwriter and ex-environmental chief visits IOP this fall

Two former Bush administration officials will serve as visiting fellows at the Institute of Politics (IOP) this semester. Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and former New Jersey Governor, will arrive on campus Dec. 4, and Michael J. Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush who coined the term “axis of evil,” will be on campus for several days in mid-October.

“It’s great to have two such high profile Republicans at a time when there’s a lot to say about the Republican party,” said Chair of the IOP Fellows Committee Alexander I. Burns ’08.

Whitman, a moderate Republican, stepped down from the EPA in 2003.

In 2005, she published a book, “It’s My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America,” criticizing the rightward turn of the Republican party and blaming “social fundamentalists” for marginalizing centrist voters.

Whitman’s book was “very brave and an attempt to recenter her party,” said Harvard Law School Professor Jody Freeman.

Whitman said yesterday that she anticipates the issues raised in her book to still be relevant come December.

“The way we are conducting our political process in the country is not going to have improved a great deal after the midterm elections,” Whitman said.

Gerson also served under Bush, working as his chief speechwriter during the past seven years before stepping down last year.

“Gerson, while he doesn’t have the title of governor, is as influential as anyone we have around here,” Burns said.

IOP Director Jeanne Shaheen said the IOP tries to select visiting fellows whose interests are topical to current issues.

According to Shaheen, Whitman’s trip has been in the works for over a year, while the IOP started trying to attract Gerson after he resigned from his speechwriter post.

“As soon as we heard that he was leaving the White House, we talked to him right away, we wanted him here as a fall fellow,” Shaheen said.

While here, Whitman and Gerson will be leading discussions, visiting classes, and interacting with students.

Whitman is already scheduled to speak at the Kennedy School Forum.

“I plan to make myself as available as I can be,” Whitman said.

Visiting fellows usually address a wide variety of topics, in contrast to the resident fellows, who reside at Harvard for the entire semester and tend to focus on one topic, according to Burns.

”We pack a huge number of events into those days,” Burns said. “We try to match them up with a diverse set of student groups so that they can talk candidly about a wide range of subjects.”

—Staff writer Stephanie S. Garlow can be reached at