By Bob Ferris
I remember having a discussion at some point during my career about personnel manuals. These are basically documents that evolve over time and their complexity is directly related to the general acceptance of common decency and good sense with an organization's culture. Personnel manuals grow when employees transgress stepping over invisible lines in the sand that most know are there. The additional rules become the burden of those who follow and likely affect little those who catalyze them and typically leave. I am generally in favor of thin manuals made adequate by rigorous hiring and strong management. I think about this now as I look at the Trump Administration and how the current guidelines for behavior for the Executive Branch are sorely inadequate for this crew on way too many levels.
It is remarkable, but not unsurprising, that we see the head of the Office of Government Ethics resigning right on the heels of a high-level Department of Justice employee because she no longer could pursue ethics enforcement actions in proximity to the bigger and worse transgressions happening where they should happen least. Perhaps it is a challenge to “drain the swamp” when the water is rising above your head.
In the corporate or private sectors the above conditions should trigger some serious introspection and more often than not a committee to review the rules to make certain they are up to the job. And if a re-write of the “personnel manual” is in order—so be it. This, of course, is predicated on the notion that management is committed to the entity in question and its future health and prospects. Unfortunately the “management” in question is Congress and they have collectively —through the health care debate, posture on climate change and tolerance of things Trump—demonstrated little regard for America and Americans. But they too, like the Devil, may have their limits.
Although many of us were gladden to see the above video from Australia, the iconic photo of Trump sitting all alone at the G-20 (top), and Angela Merkel’s classic eye roll while talking to Putin (see above), these hardly healed the massive level of disappointment and distress caused by Trump’s continued occupation of the Oval Office or he and his family’s apparent contest to see who can on any given day make our country look more idiotic or corrupt. It is disheartening in the extreme for those of us who take ethics seriously to see Trump and the Trumplings treat the United States much like piranha treat unfortunate capybaras when they try to swim across a South American stream.
|Many of us are like these capybara sitting on the shore waiting for someone or anything to make us feel safe and secure again.|
How can we help but be offended or wince when Donald Jr. and Eric think that they can both be the distant and impartial managers of the family’s increasing wealth while acting as de facto spokespeople and attack dogs for the Presidency? Similarly Ivanka and Jared’s actions seem never to be far from their own personal and financial interests, with Ivanka’s presence at the table with world leaders at the G-20 some perverse, dangerous and unappreciated take-your-daughter-to-work-day miscalculation. And the assembled cabinet secretaries chomp, chomp, chomping their way through our fiscal, medical and educational safeguards as well as treating our public amenities like they are unloved and not treasured creates a palpable discomfort deepening the national discord.
Many of us have hope that there will be a legal solution but justice, while wielding a sharp sword blindly, is also painfully slow to act. But given the our world standing trajectory and the ridiculousness of the situation “swift” justice may come too late and too dear. So perhaps we are left with the Devil in the form of Congress finally feeling our collective discomfort along with the World’s disdain and acting either affirmatively and collectively via legislative action or individually and publicly with the proper disgust and pointed resistance. Leadership needs to erupt from those chambers and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
And circling back to the beginning, my sense is that we need some sort of change to the nation’s “personnel manual” that better defines conflicts, establishes some baseline understanding of minimally-acceptable ethical behavior and stops this and any future President from thinking that this office, campaign funds or diplomacy are anyone’s personal ATM. We are in a deep hole and our patience has long since expired.