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FY-Eye: When to Quit Government Work

By Ed O'Keefe

Former defense secretary Robert McNamara and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)

"The Dean" David Broder writes today about the recent death of former defense secretary Robert McNamara and Sarah Palin's surprise resignation. He uses both departures to discuss when public officials should hang it up and leave, concluding that neither McNamara or Palin serve as good examples.

Writes David:

It was not until 1995, when he was again a private citizen, that McNamara published an apologetic memoir, revealing for the first time that he had harbored the gravest doubts about the war that took 58,000 American lives. The public reaction was harsh. Opponents of the war said that if McNamara had made the reason for his "resignation" public at the time, Johnson might have been forced to end the war -- and thousands who died over the next seven years might have been saved.
McNamara said he had never seen himself in the role of whistleblower. As an appointee of the president, he said he owed Johnson his loyalty. The voters had chosen Johnson; his judgment deserved deference. It foreshadowed the similar decision by Secretary of State Colin Powell not to go public with his reservations about the Iraq war.
These are hard calls, and those of us on the outside, who can only imagine the pressures of public office, can show some sympathy for the people who have to wrestle with the conflict between their conscience and their sense of obligation to the administration in which they serve.
But resignation on a matter of principle is never a bad thing, and it can have salutary effects. This country would be better off if it happened more often.

David states that Palin's departure is "much harder to understand or justify" and concludes, "McNamara stayed too long and left too quietly. Palin is bailing out on her people far too soon. Neither can serve as an example for those in government wrestling with the decision of when to quit."

So when is it best to pack your bags and leave? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 9, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  FY-Eye, Workplace Issues  
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1. It's time to go when affirmative action quotas take precedence over knowledge, skill and abilities combined with extensive broad and deep experience. Unless you want surgery to change your gender or skin color, you are hosed for selection to positions of greater responsibility or for promotion, awards and other forms of recognition.

2. When they have rung every bit of value from your long years of highly rated performance and put you on the shelf or in exile, it is also time to go.

3. When both of the above apply, there is NO reason to stay.

4. Government does not do well in optimal use of senior civil servants, when its political agenda interferes with choosing the best person for the job. Under any or all of these circumstances, it's time to leave!

Posted by: maowg63 | July 10, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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