Time for Obama Staff Resignations

It used to be staff who messed up would fall on their swords.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

It was 1982, and my dad's old friend from the Rockefeller days, Joe Canzeri, abruptly resigned from his job in the Reagan White House. "What did Mr. Canzeri do wrong, Dad?" I asked. "It doesn't matter," my father said. "He had to resign because that's what you do when you work for the president. You don't wait to get fired when you make a mistake—even a small one—you resign first. It's the right thing to do."

According to Joe Canzeri's 2004 obituary in the Washington Post, he resigned over an "ethics misstep," namely that he submitted a $700 receipt for reimbursement twice, and borrowed money to buy a home in Georgetown at favorable rates. He always maintained his innocence and was later exonerated. But Joe still resigned because in Washington, that's what you do to protect the president's reputation. If he had stayed on, the press would have started using terms like "scandal-ridden" and "allegations of corruption" about President Reagan and his staff. To stop the story, he took one for the team. There are plenty of Washingtonians on both sides of the aisle who have done the same thing, in every administration I can recall. It's part of being loyal.

But Sally Quinn writes in today's Post that the old take-one-for-the-team mentality is gone these days:

One of the first lessons any administration needs to learn is that somebody has to take the hit for whatever goes wrong. If another culprit is not identified, the president gets the blame. One incident after another in the past few months has shown that members of this administration would rather lay low and let Barack Obama be the target. This has got to stop.

Quinn is referring not only to the administration's botched response to the Christmas Day terrorist attack on Flight 253, but to the alarming news today that a third uninvited guest was able to get inside the White House compound the night of the State Dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The president has convened a meeting with his national security team and is supposedly "livid" at the human and systemic security failures lately, according to NBC's Savannah Guthrie.

The president has a press conference scheduled for later today to discuss the results of the meeting. There's a growing consensus in Washington that he's being poorly served by his staff, at least on these security issues. What he decides to do about it will say a lot about personal responsibility, public accountability, and crisis leadership—not only by the national security team but by the president himself. And he'd do well to accept a few resignations—if anyone is loyal enough to take one for the team in the first place.