VocExile/Presidential Ethics

Presidential Ethics -- Seven Principles

By Ed Perley


Past scandals within the White House, and the resulting political battles, suggest to this writer that the American people should set certain standards of behavior for their President. They should apply equally, whether he is a Republican or Democrat, likeble or otherwise. In this spirit, I came up with seven principles of presidential ethics, which are listed below. In my opinion, they apply equally to Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and the Roosevelts, as well as to the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Principle I

In all ways, public, professional and private, the President should adhere to the highest standards of integrity and conduct.

The President of the United States occupies a unique position in American culture, something like that of a king or queen. Besides controlling one of the three main branches of the federal government, the President serves as a spokesman for the nation as a whole, and a model to be emulated. Because of this, only people with the highest integrety are fit to be the President. Misbehavior by a President diminishes both him and his office.

Principle II

To the greatest extent allowed by national security, and the sensibilities of his party, a President should not lie or distort the truth in any public statements.

If a President lies or distorts the truth, the ability of other branches of the government and the public to make judgements about public policy is impaired. If this dishonesty is immediately obvious, or if it is found out later, the President will lose his credibility. This, in turn, will impair the ability of the President to perform his duties.

Principle III

The President should not engage in any activity that is inappropriate for the White House and the Office of the President.

Activities that reflect negatively on the Office of the President, either legal or illegal, should be avoided. Such actions cause the public to lose respect for both the President and his Office.

Principle IV

The President should avoid close associations with people of questionable integrity.

If the President habitually spends considerable time with people of questionable integrity, he demeans both himself and the Presidency. The public becomes cynical, and many begin to believe that policy actions by the President are suspect.

Principle V

The President should not engage in illicit and secret romantic or sexual relationships with any of his subordinates.

Romantic and sexual relationships within the Office of the President can distort and hamper it's business. At it's worst, it can be used to coerce female subordinates into doing things they normally would never do. Even if the subordinate say's no, she becomes caught in a "conspiracy of silence" with the perpetrator. Such secret relationships can make it more difficult for the parties to effectively conduct the nation's business.

Principle VI

The President and his subordinates should not make derogatory statements to the public about other agencies or operatives or branches of government that are functioning as required by the Constitution, law and legal precedent.

If an office of the governemt is not operating properly, the President is obligated to notify the appropriate government agencies and congressional committees concerning the problem. Publicly attacking an agency of government for doing its job, weakens it and makes it more difficult to function. This, in turn impairs the operation of the government as a whole. It heightens the public's cynicism and distrust of government.

Principle VII

In debates of public policy, the President and his subordinates should not misrepresent the opinions of others with whom he disagrees.

Decisions of public policy depend on open debate. Truly open debate can not occur if the other side has to spend all of their time arguing that their position is not what the President and his subordinates say it is. A President who destroys the credibility of others in this way eventually destroys his own credibility as well.

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Date: May 30, 1998 Updated October 20, 2001
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