When I joined the Bush administration in May 1989 as director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), it was against my better judgment. I was no expert in disaster relief, had limited interest in it, and was not quite sure why Alan Woods, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, and my old friend Andy Card, George Bush's deputy chief of staff at the White House, were so insistent that I accept the directorship of the office. I had been for most of my adult life a Republican state legislator in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, serving concurrently as Republican Party chairman for seven years.
Woods and Card both claimed that the directorship was the best job in the federal government and that I had the right mix of skills to hold it -- two observations I did not share. The job, they said, was highly political, but not partisan, and required a good deal of risk taking. The director had to make political judgments every day in a major crisis, manage byzantine bureaucratic politics within the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, and understand the indigenous politics of the countries where disaster relief operations took place. In addition, I would have to deal regularly with news media, given that disasters are also major news events, and report often to Congress, which is innately drawn to visible and potentially controversial events. Mrs. Marilyn Quayle had chosen disaster relief as her principal interest as Second Lady, and