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The princess headed for Finland, where he fulfilled his role as a dutiful Mormon son by serving as a missionary for two years. Bush then returned to Washington where he joined the Nixon Agriculture Department and for the next eight years worked as a speechwriter.
His work was limited to prosaic tracts on such things as Peruvian anchovy harvests. But he was simultaneously honing his skills for political intrigue.
In 1975, Bush discovered that the department had diverted food from famine-ridden India and Bangladesh to South Vietnamese military officers during the Vietnam War. Congress had forbidden the U.S. to pay the officers' salaries, so the White House secretly gave them food to resell.
Bush leaked classified documents to the New York Times, the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Page-one stories hit the same day in all three papers, exposing the secret program and drawing an FBI investigation into the leak. Bush chain-smoked through his interview with the investigators and survived unscathed.
By 1977, Bush, who was still in the closet, began writing under the pseudonym Bill Evans for the Washington Blade, D.C.'s gay newspaper. His first story was about a fire at the Cinema Follies, a popular gay pornographic movie house in Washington, in which several prominent but closeted citizens were wounded or killed.
The blaze also singed the doors of Bush's closet. "This was a place that I had been," he says of the movie house. "I thought this could be how my family found out I was gay; that was very sobering."
Bush showed his news account to his therapist, who said he couldn't tell from the story that "Evans" was gay. "I said, 'Yeah, isn't that great,'" Bush recounts. "I was so proud of my journalistic objectivity. And he said, 'No, that's not the point. This is a community you are supposed to feel something about.'"
The fire kept playing on his mind, as did a film Bush saw as a young boy, Advise and Consent, which centers on a Mormon congressman who commits suicide when it's discovered that he's gay. Finally, Bush decided to come out, writing a letter under his own signature to the Washington Post, in which he criticized the paper's coverage of gay issues.
A few days later, he was summoned to the office of his Agriculture Department boss and asked about the letter. Yes, he said, it was his letter. And yes, he was gay.
Suddenly, Bush found himself undergoing a performance audit, despite his perfect record. When the review came back clean, another was ordered. His small staff was transferred and he found himself alone in a tiny office -- "almost literally a closet" -- and his phones were tapped. Being gay, he was told, was inconsistent with government service.
After consulting lawyers, Bush decided against a protracted legal fight and resigned from the federal government in 1978. He still takes ironic pleasure pointing out that he survived the Nixon administration only to be drummed out of government service under Jimmy Carter's watch.
Bush rebounded, joining the eccentric world of freelance journalism. From a homebase in the nation's capital, he wrote for the Washington Blade, the Advocate and the New York Native. When Annemarie Conroy was still in high school, Bush was chopping off the heads of gay leaders he thought were too soft on prejudice or too blasŽ about the AIDS epidemic. "We called him the giant killer," says one old colleague.
Bush excoriated Lucia Valeska, then-head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, for living under an assumed name at the same time she was calling on people to leave the closet. That revelation, coupled with other scathing articles in the gay press -- one headline read: "Lucia Valeska to the Gay Community: Drop Dead" -- lead to her resignation. The same hard-hitting stories contributed to the downfall of the late Steve Endean, the visionary yet ineffectual leader of the now defunct Gay Rights National Lobby.
That Bush had indulged in the same "sin" he used to smear Valeska did not escape the attention of his adversaries. "He's a hypocrite," says a Clinton White House official who asked not to be named.
Bush's current ethics crusade has elicited similar accusations on this coast. You see, when he worked for Agnos, Bush was known as one of the most imperious political operatives ever to stride the San Francisco scene. Even one of his best friends, the late Jerry Davis, routinely referred to Bush as "the dark side."
One city employee remembers standing with Bush on the balcony of the mayor's office in the winter of 1991, shortly after Agnos placed second to Frank Jordan in the general election. "Here's what we do," Bush said to the mayor's police bodyguard, Paul Chignell. "First we win the runoff and then we destroy Carole Migden."
The supervisor's political crime? She had talked Angela Alioto into the mayor's race and thereby undercut Agnos' liberal support. (It's interesting to note that at about the same time he was plotting her destruction, Bush was sending Migden a bouquet of flowers to thank her for endorsing Agnos in the runoff.)