People Used to Resign
Scripps-Howard News Service 6.05.02
Like every profession, holders of public office used to be bound
by certain traditions and a largely unwritten code of ethics. Resigning
from office has been a tool for protest, an acknowledgment of responsibility,
a measure of good character.
But no one resigns any more. What happened?
The Clintons happened. They surrounded themselves with an unending
procession of persons who simply laughed at the thousands of years
directly preceding Woodstock, and saw all of the past as one big,
Not a single resignation for cause in eight years.
Comes now the Wall Street Journal and suggests in its lead editorial
that Robert S. Muller III resign as head of the FBI. Director Mueller,
asked by Tim Russert on NBC-TV's Meet the Press, made clear that
it was not going to happen.
Remarkably, in the very same interview he became the first to admit
that it would have been possible to prevent September 11, 2001,
had the information been properly tabulated.
We are looking at the emergence of a legacy we wish we could put
in a deep vault, never to be opened. We are looking at the horrible
recognition - it might take a year for the awesome reality to sink
in completely - that September 11, 2001 was indeed preventable.
We will have to look into the eyes of the families who dream every
night of their loved one leaping from a window above the point of
We will have to look into the eyes of children whose father perished
in the attempt to save those below the point of impact.
They will look back at us with silent questions. And the answers
will come, if they haven't already.
The 19 (20?) mass-murderers should not have been in the country.
If somehow they managed to be in the country, they should have
been under constant surveillance, especially after they had enrolled
in flight training schools.
If they somehow escaped attention and made it to the airline counter,
they should have been apprehended there.
If they somehow managed to board the aircraft, the doors should
not have closed.
If the doors somehow closed, take-off should have been aborted.
If the planes managed to take off, they should never have made
it to their targets.
So, as you see, dear reader, Mr. Mueller is not even first in line.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is a part of the Department
of Justice. The Attorney General has every reason to resign.
It is only after John Ashcroft thus restores dignity to public
service that Mr. Mueller's turn comes, and mostly for the widely
reported inertia that appears to characterize the FBI during the
months since 9/11.
Of course, if General Ashcroft can point to steps he had taken
to enforce our immigration laws, my most humble apology will be
owed to him.
Hopefully, Mr. Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, can
also tell us what he was doing between his confirmation and that
fateful day to ensure the safety of Americans flying over their
homeland. Otherwise, he, too, owes this nation his immediate resignation.
Unless the chief executives of the two airlines involved can demonstrate
due diligence in appointing and instructing supervisors to train
check-in and on-board personnel in the basic use of their brains,
they would be next in line to announce that spending more time with
their families was the right thing to do.
Whether it is the Secretary of the Air Force, or someone higher,
to take the blame for the inability of the world's greatest aerial
power to respond effectively is a matter for the Commander-in-Chief.
And so is this: Who, ultimately, was responsible for national security
on that Tuesday?
Because, whoever it was, has the following question to answer:
Was there a meeting of the appropriate group some time in the spring
of 2001? And was the question posed: "So what are the Arabs
doing in America right now, and who is going to collect and tabulate
For, if this did not occur, even the most erudite and charming
person, even if she is a fellow pianist, will have to stand up and
accept the responsibility.
It is unseemly for an immigrant to propose the resignation of people
at the zenith of their career - people who have every reason to
feel they had done no wrong.
But wrongdoing is by no means the sole reason for honorable people
to resign. A monumental national tragedy any one of them might have
prevented is reason enough.