Most politicians, once their days in government service are over, go on to less public but nonetheless lucrative careers in the private sector. They serve on corporate boards, become presidents of universities, or enjoy a quiet retirement. Sure, they can't all be Jimmy Carter, parlaying a lengthy political career into a rewarding life of philanthropy and humanitarian work, but most can at least write a memoir or two.
And then there's Tom DeLay.
Forced to resign after being indicted for conspiracy and money laundering, "The Hammer" hasn't exactly prospered from his "ghostblog" or his hard-hitting book, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight. This weekend, he made the surprising decision to appear on a reality show (ABC's Dancing with the Stars). The horrified onlooker in all of us hopes he isn't the last former elected official to expose himself to ridicule in front of a national TV audience for a buck. And while we wait for that magical first episode, we can amuse ourselves with a few folks whose post-political careers were actually more embarrassing than DeLay's.
5. Andrew Allen -- Pennsylvania Delegate to Second Continental Congress (1775-1776)
Allen came from an influential Pennsylvania family and served as Attorney General for the colony of Pennsylvania before becoming a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He wasn't as keen on the Declaration of Independence, however, and switched sides, returning with the British Army to England in 1778. Needless to say, this didn't go over well back home and the Pennsylvania Assembly used his treason as justification for seizing his properties. The lesson remains: if you're going to switch allegiances in the middle of a fight, make sure you're going to the winning side. Just ask Zell Miller.
4. Aaron Burr -- Vice President (1801-1805)
Being put on trial for treason meant Burr's political career was deader than Julius Caesar, even though he wasn't actually convicted. He spent the rest of his days bopping around Europe to avoid creditors (taking his mother's maiden name to help throw them off the scent) and contemplating how murdering Alexander Hamilton and shady connections with Spanish spies had set the bar for VP so high that only Spiro Agnew has yet to approach it.
3. Edmund J. Davis -- Governor of Texas (1870-1874)
The last Republican to serve as Texas governor until Bill Clements in 1979, Davis did not go quietly into that good night, refusing to leave his office after losing the gubernatorial election to Richard Coke. After that pleasant incident, he ran for Governor again in 1880 and Congress in 1882, losing both times. He also refused a federal appointment as customs collector of Galveston because he didn't like Rutherford B. Hayes. Davis finally died, in (we assume) bitter fashion, in 1883.
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2. Harry S Truman -- President (1945-1953)
Truman wasn't just the first (and so far only...fingers crossed) President to use nuclear weapons, he was also the first beneficiary of the Former Presidents Act, a law whose passage was largely helped by Truman's own tenuous financial situation. The 33rd President accepted no commercial endorsements following his retirement, and early business ventures (including a haberdashery) hadn't quite panned out. Luckily, the FPA kept Truman from becoming the first Vagrant in Chief.
1. Dick Cheney -- Vice President (2001-2009)
This might be more wishful thinking on my part than anything else, but the former Vice President/Halliburton CEO is already off to an inauspicious start to his brief post-VP career. First were the verbal attacks -- in violation of long-standing rules of Presidential etiquette -- of Obama's actions in office, then came word that Cheney's upcoming memoir will feature pointed criticism of Cheney's ex-boss, George W. Bush. With such a winning personality, it's little wonder Obama chose to extend Cheney's Secret Service protection past the customary six months following his leaving office.