Monday, October 18, 2004

Bush, Kerry Members of Same Secret Society

TIE THAT BINDS?
Bush's, Kerry's secret society
Yale graduates both belong to Skull and Bones, one of country's most elite
college groups
BY ANDREW METZ
STAFF WRITER
October 18, 2004

So what did President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry say to each other
before having at each other in their televised debates? Was there more
than a perfunctory "good luck"? And what about the handshakes?

For those inclined to wonder, consider this: The president and the senator
are members of one of the country's most elite college societies, where
loyalty and ritual - and most of all secrecy - are sacred.

Bush versus Kerry is a clash of political parties, but it's also an
unprecedented faceoff between Bonesmen, brothers from Yale University's
revered Skull and Bones. The two have refused to comment on their shared
experience, citing the privacy of the order. "It's so secret, we can't
talk about it," Bush told NBC's Tim Russert earlier this year.

But whether or not these Bonesmen exchanged a clandestine greeting, the
order occupies a hallowed spot in their identities and highlights their
enduring association with exclusivity and privilege.

"It raises an interesting question when two Bonesmen end up on the
opposite sides of the political aisle. How deep do allegiances run?" said
Graham Boettcher, a Yale doctoral student who has dug into the order's
history and has friends who are members, though he is not.

Bush and Kerry were two years apart at Yale, the president the class of
'68, the senator '66. Both were among 15 seniors ushered into an order
that has fueled fabulous speculation.

Members are said to revere the number 322, to use the phrase "Do you know
Gen. Russell?" to identify one another and to bare their sexual histories
in group sessions. The Internet is full of Skull and Bones lore,
conspiracy theories and occult overtones. One sensational claim has
Bonesmen, including Bush's grandfather, pilfering the Indian leader
Geronimo's skeletal remains from Oklahoma and bringing them to the order's
campus home, the Tomb.

Rituals and rumors aside, Bones alliances endure through retreats and
networking, and the path from the Tomb to power is well worn. Besides
three presidencies - Bush, his father and William Howard Taft - Bonesmen
have landed in Congress, the CIA, Supreme Court, Cabinet posts, top banks
and media outlets.

Skull and Bones has been an incubator for what Bonesman Alan Cross, a
North Carolina pediatrics professor and Kerry contemporary, calls "the
cream off the top of the cream." And it has been an abiding association
for the men vying to be president. Kerry still counts members as friends;
there are several Bonesmen in the Bush administration.

Ron Rosenbaum, the New York Observer columnist who wrote a 1977 expose on
the order in Esquire, calls it "an underreported network of influence and
power" and "a source of a mindset of privilege." Rosenbaum, a Bush
classmate who was not in Bones, has urged the contenders to quit the
order, writing in a March column that the public has the right "to know
about the nature of their presidents' associations and how they affect who
they really are."

Fellow Bonesmen, however, insist the order's only impact is a high regard
for friendship and public service.

Donald Etra, a Los Angeles defense lawyer who was in the society with
Bush, said the Bones bond may also create a mutual respect, even in this
contentious campaign.

At the least, said Alexandra Robbins, a Yale graduate and author of
"Secrets of the Tomb," a 2002 book on the society, "they both acknowledge
that the two of them went through something special."

And if Bush and Kerry pose a strange alignment to Bones loyalty, Robbins
said for the order, "it is a win-win situation. No matter who wins, they
have a Bonesman in the White House for the next four years."