And you so often hear one word, it has almost become a joke:
The question I have is, what happened to resignation in America? With one outrage after another committed by the Bush Administration, why has only George Tenet, the lone cabinet holdover from the Clinton Administration (apart from Norm), resigned in shame?
Where is the honor and dignity in this White House?
So expected is resignation that it is in fact very hard to remove someone from elected office otherwise: even Joe McCarthy was only censured by the Senate, although he was the target of a recall effort. We have seen members of congress resign; though some like Trent Lott have only given up leadership positions while maintaining their jobs.
A recent executive resignation was that of NJ Gov James McGreevy of New Jersey, who resigned because of a homosexual affair. President Bill Clinton did not resign as a result of the similar Lewinsky affair; had it been homosexual one wonders if his response would have been different. However, most of our resignations in recent memory have involved relatively petty scandals that did not involve the actual duties of office.
However, the Bush Administration has given us one outrageous example after another of official misconduct, directly in the most critical duties of office, with apart from Tenet's tardy motion, nary a resignation in sight. (Leaving at the end of a term is standard and has nothing to do with honor particularly.)
If there was still a code of honor in political life, George Tenet's resignation would have been on the president's desk (if only electronically) within minutes of the second plane crash on 9/11, pending the appointment of a capable replacement. So too, I believe, would Condoleeza Rice's. Robert Muller had only just taken his job, and could be given a pass. But an event of this magnitude without anyone demonstrating their remorse that they had failed to protect the country, their most sacred covenant?
It is unthinkable.
Then there is the Iraq war, the Plame affair, the Abu Ghraib torture and the memos supporting it, the tearing up of the Constitution...we all know the rest.
I would like to coin a term that gets at the heart of this. You could call it a meme, or a frame. The Resignable Offense.
Resignable Offenses are purposefully separate from Impeachable Offenses and outright Criminal Offenses because they make it clear that the burden of policing policy must fall first on the policymakers themselves. That is the contract of leadership: that you are responsible, you are accountable, and you will resign when you have transgressed far enough beyond the boundaries of decency, especially in your official duties, without prompting.
Violate that contract, and a contagion starts to spread in gov't: "Well, they didn't resign over that, so why should I?" And so the essence of good government begins quickly to rot, and corruption and malfeasance begin to need no apology much less resignation. This feeds on itself until a revolution occurs, cleaning the mess in a general purge.
That most certainly should not be necessary. And press coverage should be the last, and not the first, opportunity to resign. One's conscience must be more than enough if one is fit to serve.
Without self-policing and requisite honor, government is far too easy to abuse. "Executive Privelege," as seen in Cheney's energy task force, and "National Security" can be invoked ad infinitum, if ever challenged. But really no one has the ability to adequately police a gov't, bloggers' best intentions and a Freedom of Information Act not withstanding.
Where did it all go wrong? What has happened to resignation?
I myself am shocked that Tony Blair has not resigned once WMD was not found in Iraq. I thought higher of the nation that educated me so well. His cabinet member Clare Short did resign in May 2003, but that was an exception.
I am sure the Republicans will point to Clinton and say "that's where it began!" And one could make an argument that a Clinton resignation in 1998, with the Y2K-spending-fueled tech boom ahead, would have put Gore in a far better position to retain the White House for years into the future. But Clinton's predicament, no one here will argue, is lesser than the least of the litany of Resignable Offenses the Bush administration cranks out on a seemingly daily basis.
Where else then? How did our concept of gov't become unglued? Where is the outrage from those on the Repubican side who wish to salvage their own image-by-association in history?
Is this al Qaeda's greatest victory?