There is no question that the most important position in any White House is the chief of staff. That person is the gatekeeper who protects the President and helps make policy, good or bad.
One of the most powerful chiefs of staff was Sherman Adams, a former governor, who took over that role for President Eisenhower in 1958.
Adams was so strong that the joke was “if Sherman Adams dies will Eisenhower be competent to be president?”
According to our friends at Wikipedia, Adams was known as the “no” man on almost every issue. The reason I bring up his name is to show what happens when a key staffer gets involved in a corruption scandal.
Adams was given a gift of a vicuna coat and an Oriental rug by a businessperson who had dealings with the administration. Despite his impeccable credentials, Adams was fired for fear of the scandal tainting the president.
Fast forward to the current Trump administration and the contrast between the old days when no improper act was tolerated and the current days, when if you are a friend of the president, you can do no wrong. We can start with names such as Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin and on and on.
Some are gone and others are still there. In the case of Pruitt and Zinke, it took scandal after scandal before President Trump had no choice but to reluctantly fire them.
Others in the Cabinet are still there even though questions crop up periodically about their behavior. Ryan Zinke is a good example of someone who should have gotten fired on the spot but was kept on for questionable reasons.
Zinke, if you will recall, installed a soundproof telephone booth in his office at a cost of $45,000 so he could make secure calls to the White House. As of this past week it was revealed that he made only one call to the President for five minutes.
I love the flag story. Zinke ordered expensive official flags that were to be flown over his offices only when he was physically present.
The rumors about departed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt were rampant that he was abusing his position, but he stayed on the job for weeks before the news came out that he leased a condominium for $50 a night from a powerful Washington lobbyist who had business with his agency.
Add a few other missteps and eventually, the President was forced to dump him. Pruitt had good company in Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who spent $400,000 on private jets to get to cities easily available by Amtrak.
Weeks dragged by before the next news broke that his overseas trips cost in excess of $500,000 on military aircraft. His past record while a member of Congress somehow didn’t catch the attention of anyone in the White House.
During his tenure Price was criticized for investing in companies for which he sponsored legislation. Apparently, even on that record alone, he still managed to get his Cabinet post.
There are a few others who are still in government who have attracted attention for their actions.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to get a military jet to take him on his honeymoon and it is currently alleged that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has failed to dispose of investments that he had sworn were liquidated when he took the job.
As we face the November 2018 midterm elections, there is no doubt that the Democrats will seize on these many ethical disasters and use them as examples how the swamp was never drained. But we as a country face a different dilemma.
Once upon a time, people in high places would get the boot quickly if there was even the slightest hint that they were involved in some corrupt act.
The current administration seems incapable of setting the ethical bar higher so that the public will respect their national leaders. Somehow, every misdeed by a key official is just “fake news” and it takes a tornado of bad news to oust them.
We as Americans want to believe that our government is different than some banana republic. Regrettably, with the bar so low, it’s no surprise that President has to struggle each day to convince the majority of voters that he is capable of sitting in the Oval office.