HuffPost: Four Quitters Walk Into a Bar...

Lydia Polgreen
Oct 25, 2017
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All of them, at some point over the course of the last nine months, had left their posts within the current administration, having decided that they could better serve their country from outside the government than from within. They weren’t happy about quitting, either. They were civil servants who wanted to remain civil servants, who, except for one, had worked under presidents of both parties. They had disagreed with superiors over the years, they had been fearful of new regulations and wary of political appointees, but they stayed on because that’s the nature of career work in government. This was different.

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Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics now a Senior Director at the Campaign Legal Center

I think once again my experience is a little different, or at least my focus. I’m less focused on the policy views. My big concern has more to do with what I call “the container.” I see the structures of our representative form of government as the container, and then the policy as just whatever you dump into it.

What has concerned me is the assault on the container. When you have a president who retains his financial interest, even if you’re supportive of him, you can’t know what his decisions are based on. And that becomes particularly acute when you see him praising[Recep Tayyip] Erdogan for seizing more power, or inviting the murderous [Rodrigo] Duterte to Washington, when he has property interests in Turkey and the Philippines.

But the commonality I’m hearing is the unwillingness to rely on experts. At OGE, we saw ourselves in the solutions business. So let’s go back to the president’s financial interests. I have repeatedly said that he needed to sell them. But even if he wasn’t willing to sell them, we could have come up with other solutions that could have mitigated the harm, such as saying no administration official will attend any event at a Trump-branded or -owned property. That might’ve stopped Kuwait and Bahrain and other countries from holding events there, or politicians or charities from doing fundraising events there, because they would’ve known not a single person from the White House would’ve walked through the door. We also could have recommended that he follow the nepotism precedents instead of having the Department of Justice reverse its decades-old position on nepotism. 

So when the White House smears me and says I somehow was trying to undermine them, the truth is, if they had done what I recommended, they would’ve been stronger for it.

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I want to take this opportunity to encourage young people to go into public service. And there are lots of different forms of public service. There’s state and local government, there are nonprofits and, yes, there is the federal government, which I still highly recommend. For the young people coming in, they’re going to be at the lower levels and insulated from some of the turmoil. At the same time, they wind up getting a lot of responsibility at a very young age. And they can make a difference by trying to provide basic services to a nation.

Public service really is its own reward. 

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