Loyalty and the White House Limousine

By Richard J. Cattani. Richard J. Cattani is editor of the Monitor. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 1991 | Go to article overview
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Loyalty and the White House Limousine

Richard J. Cattani. Richard J. Cattani is editor of the Monitor., The Christian Science Monitor

JOHN SUNUNU'S public ordeal as White House chief of staff has centered on his use of corporate jets and the president's limousine for his personal getting about. Sununu reportedly thinks a vendetta - by the media, liberals, Republican moderates vying for control of the president's 1992 campaign, and a pro-Israeli faction that objects to his "evenhanded" Middle East views - is fueling the controversy. Smart and abrasive, he has not cultivated endearment or allies.

The president is "perturbed" over Sununu's actions and excuses but is "loyal" to him. Sununu is "on probabation." Or so it is reported.

The president and his chief of staff must work this out. This is awkward, because a chief of staff himself serves as a president's bad-news giver. He is the "woodshed" a president is said to take wayward staffers out to. The central themes here are loyalty and trust. Mr. Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, delivered that crucial state for Mr. Bush's 1988 campaign after a shaky start in Iowa. A campaign stalwart (James Baker III for Ronald Reagan) is often given the chief-of-staff job. With it c omes the expectation that the appointee will pursue the president's political interests and get him reelected.

By these standards, Sununu is fairly Bush's man. Bush owed him one. Sununu will have to decide whether he remains a sufficient asset for Bush's reelection. Bush is being watched by the public too: On the spectrum of his own character, where does the president's loyalty dissolve into expediency?

Loyalty should be mutual, though too often one side quits. But as Shakespeare said of love - it is not love if it bends with the remover to remove - so with loyalty: Loyalty implies staying with a friend, associate, subordinate or superior, through some test. Loyalty absent a test may be only friendship.

Betrayal is an alternative to loyalty. This is a difficult subject, because betrayal may also be perceived as an alternative loyalty. Other alternatives are indifference and neutrality, which are passive; these can either be negative in intention or effect, as in letting someone twist in the wind, or positive, as in giving someone an opportunity to work out of a tough situation.

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