Unfortunately for the White House, the press is giving the matter far more attention than they had reckoned (though you can hardly blame the White House for their mistaken assumption) so major spinning has commenced. Earlier this week Norman Eisen, the White House Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform released a statement that claimed that at an earlier AmeriCorps board meeting, Mr. Walpin, 73, "was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the board to question his capacity to serve." That in turn led to the President losing confidence in Walpin, hence his firing. So says Mr. Eisen.
Well then. Let me first state I know several people who work for the government and to a man and woman they are conscientious, hard working and deliver value to the taxpayers for their efforts. I should also add Inspector General Walpin's health and mind seem to be in fine repair and that he is more than up to the job. However, let us also stipulate that for most Americans, a member of the White House staff stating with a straight face a federal employee was actually fired because he "was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions" not only borders on the comical but is deeply and comfortably ensconced in the lame. The White House will have to do a lot better than that if they want this nasty little problem to go away. So far, though, that's their story and they're sticking to it.
If there is a bright side to the farrago it is that I am presented, yet again, with an opportunity to quote from the funniest play ever to run on Broadway, the British import Beyond the Fringe; this time the skit of a coal miner who wistfully laments he would rather have been a judge (with emphasis added by your humble editor):
Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judgin', I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as bein' a judge was concerned. I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams. They're noted for their rigor. People come out staggering and saying "My God, what a rigorous exam!" - and so I became a miner instead. A coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams--they're not rigorous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that. I'd rather have been a judge than a miner...Being a miner, as soon as you are too old and tired and sick and stupid to do the job properly, you have to go. Well, the very opposite applies with judges. So all in all I’d rather have been a judge than a miner.Rem acu tetigisti? Assuming most will agree that our sad coal miner's description of judges' job requirements extends to certain others in the public employ, the White House may have a serious credibility problem on its hands.