Public-Servant-in-Chief: In the President’s Own Words

bushIt’s not Baghdad alone where we’re witnessing a Bush-inspired surge. The President holds ultimate responsibility for an escalation unfolding in Washington as well: namely, the rapid proliferation of administration scandals and outrages now finally finding the light of day (deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; politically-driven purges of U.S. attorneys; FBI abuses of National Security Letters, and the list goes on and on).

Not surprisingly, today President Bush resists reasonable calls for meaningful accountability and benchmarks on both fronts. But back in his headier days of sky-high approval ratings–late 2001 to be exact–he spoke to an audience of government employees and enumerated the standards by which public servants should be measured. From the White House website (

“Let me say a few words about important values we must demonstrate while all of us serve in government.

First, we must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourself not only what is legal, but what is right. There is no goal of government worth accomplishing if it cannot be accomplished with integrity.

Second, I want us to set an example of humility. As you work for the federal government there is no excuse for arrogance, and there’s never a reason to show disrespect for others. A new tone in Washington must begin with decency and fairness. I want everyone who represents our government to be known for these values.

Third, we must confront the tough problems, not avoid them and leave them for others. This is never easy, but it’s what conscience demands and what leadership requires. We must keep the long view, and remind ourselves that we’re here to serve the public’s long-term interests.

Fourth, I hope you’ll never take the honor of public service for granted. Some of us will serve in government for a season; others will spend an entire career here. But all of us should dedicate ourselves to great goals: We are not here to mark time, but to make progress, to achieve results, and to leave a record of excellence.

Fifth, we should never forget that we’re part of the same team. The American people do not distinguish between political and career employees. They don’t hold us to separate standards. The public has high expectations for the entire government, and together we will meet those expectations.

And sixth, we should always remember, every dollar we spend is the taxpayer’s money. People worked hard to earn it, and so we should spend it wisely, and reluctantly. That will take discipline and creative leadership, and I urge all of us to show that kind of leadership.”

Little more need be said. An abysmal failure as Commander-in-Chief, measured by his own words the President has utterly failed us as Public-Servant-in-Chief too.


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