Government by Bones

The Yale cabal’s windfall from the Bush presidency.

Here’s a campaign promise Chatterbox would like to hear John Kerry make: “If elected, I will hand out fewer political favors to my Skull & Bones classmates.”

The childish snobbery of Skull & Bones, the Yale secret society in which sons of the WASP aristocracy for the better part of two centuries have engaged in occult rituals—these days, it admits women, too, and the elitism is more meritocratic—has been well-documented over the years by Ron Rosenbaum. Initiates reportedly have robbed graves, lounged in coffins, murmured ritual confessions about their sexual histories, wrestled naked, and chanted mumbo-jumbo  like:


The Hangman Equals Death!
The Devil Equals Death!
Death Equals Death.

Bones is, in sum, America’s most respectable cult. John Kerry (Yale ‘66) and President Bush (Yale ‘68) both belong to the society, which confers lifelong membership.


In a recent New York Observer column, Rosenbaum called on both Kerry and Bush to resign from Bones on the grounds that presidents and potential presidents shouldn’t belong to secret organizations. At the bottom of his column, Rosenbaum provided a list of Bones members in Kerry’s and Bush’s graduating classes; apparently Bones membership was not kept secret in the 1960s, though it is now. (The Bones rituals and pledges have always been secret and remain so.)

It was a simple matter for Chatterbox to Google the 15 names in President Bush’s class of 1968. He discovered that Bush has bestowed presidential appointments on three of these 15, or fully 20 percent of his Bones classmates. If you include Bush, 27 percent of the Bones members from Yale’s class of 1968 have received some presidential position through appointment or elec—er, Supreme Court decision. That’s quite a yield. And remember—we’re only talking about Bonesmen in Dubya’s graduating class. There are surely Bonesmen from other Yale classes who’ve also played a role in government during the past three years.

The Bones ‘68 appointees are: Robert Davis McCallum, appointed associate attorney general in the Justice Department; Roy Leslie Austin, appointed ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago; and Donald Etra, appointed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. What do they have on President Bush?