Later this month, former President George W. Bush will join up with Liz Cheney, the daughter of his former vice president, to speak to a group of hunters in Reno, Nevada. Attendees of the Safari Club International Annual Hunters’ Convention will also be treated to the musical stylings of Three Dog Night and Papa Doo Run Run, a Beach Boys cover band.
On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow laid into Bush’s latest “post-presidency cringe-inducing activity.” Maddow featured a parody advertising the former president’s gig in the style of a monster truck rally commercial.
“On Saturday! Saturday! Saturday!” the ad screamed. “It’s the Safari Club International Convention starring live in person the 43rd president of the United States of America George W. Bush!”
The Safari Club bills itself as “the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide” but Michael Satchell, a senior consultant for The Humane Society of the United States, says their membership is about “doing nothing more than killing animals-an entire alphabet.”
Writing a few years back, Satchell described SCI. “With its photographs of grinning hunters posing with lifeless animals and its meticulous rankings for the biggest tusks, horns, antlers, skulls and bodies, the SCI record book perfectly encapsulates what trophy hunting is all about: killing for killing’s sake.”
But SCI’s endeavors do not end with their “macabre scorecard.” They also lobby to relax restrictions on killing animals worldwide. And they have enlisted some famous names in their effort.
SCI’s membership includes former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who has lobbied the government of Botswana on the group’s behalf to lift the ban on killing the nation’s dwindling lion population. What’s more, President George W. Bush appointed Matthew J. Hogan, SCI’s former Government Affairs Manager, as one of the two current deputy directors of USFWS-a classic example of the fox guarding the hen house. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, in turn, has worked to weaken the ESA, from abandoning federal efforts to restore grizzlies in Idaho to undermining a key provision that allows citizens to sue the government to speed up protection of imperiled species.
As its lobbying became more sophisticated, SCI began pouring money into national political campaigns. Since the 1998 election cycle, it has contributed $596,696 to Republican candidates and $92,500 to Democrats. Not coincidentally, Congressional Republicans have made repeated attempts to amend and weaken the ESA, while USFWS, turning its back on decades of precedents, has proposed to allow hunters to import trophies of endangered animals killed in the wild. These import easements are critical to one of SCI’s true aims.
Matthew Scully, one of the 43rd president’s former speechwriters, sums up SCI in his book “Dominion.” To SCI, “Respect” means “the courtesy of leaving enough behind for the next hunter,” wrote Scully. “They practice socially conscious sadism here.”
The Safari Club Convention is just the latest in a series of speaking gigs for the former Commander-in-Chief. In October, Bush played the part of a motivational speaker to a crowd in Ft. Worth, Texas.
“I hope he’s making a ton of money doing this. I really do,” remarked Rachel Maddow Tuesday night.
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Jan. 12, 2010.