The Public Sector ServantA Thoughtful Guide for People under Siege.
An Essay by Gary L. Wolfstone, J.D.
To resign, or not to resign ... that is the question.
When there is blood in the water (scandal; conflict of interest; corruption; sexual indiscretion;
perjury; and/or "impropriety or the appearance of impropriety") the print and broadcast media and the
public servant's constituents are quick to cry for resignation. The public sector servant must now
agonize over the decision ~ whether to resign and at what point to resign. Should the public
servant offer his resignation to the prosecutor as a quid pro quo? Impeachment (Richard
Nixon; Bill Clinton) and criminal prosecution are on the horizon, and the prospect for spending a
king's ransom on attorney's fees inevitably weighs heavily on the public servant's mind.
This essay shall not dwell on the cases where the public
servant has been convicted (Adam Clayton Powell) or where he has admitted guilt (Sprio Agnew - a
nolo contendere plea). In those instances, voluntary resignation is moot. By contrast,
I shall only offer advice and guidance to those accused persons whose guilt is not
yet conclusively established.
Some public servants have demonstrated
incredible courage and endurance ~ for example, Bill Clinton's success in refusing to resign
and in defeating the Impeachment proceeding was amazing. I hasten to add, however, that Mr. Clinton could have
gone down in history as a great President, but instead he spent his second term defending
himself in the midst of the scandals of Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and in the face of a perjury charge.
What Bill Clinton should have done is this: He should have said: "I refuse to testify." A sitting President can say ~ quite correctly ~ Impeachment is the one and only remedy if you
wish to prosecute me or punish me for any "alleged" misconduct or transgression.
As a sitting President, Mr. Clinton could have and should have refused to
testify in the Paula Jones case (in which he allgedly perjured himself in a deposition in Little Rock,
Arkansas). Indeed, he should never have agreed to testify in any case, deposition or proceeding. His refusal to testify would have earned him a citation for contempt of court, but
that contempt of court citation would probably not rise to the dignity of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" which is the
U.S. Constitutional standard for Impeachment. Congress would have looked ridiculous if they had
voted a Bill of Impeachment for a contempt of court citation handed down by a federal district court
judge in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas ~ whether civil or criminal contempt. Upshot: President Clinton's detractors
would never have confronted him with false statements made under oath, and Mr. Clinton would have
salvaged some small portion of his reputation and would have saved his political capital for more worthy
Today's media buzz is all about the call for
Julia Assange's resignation. Although there are other "insiders" at WikiLeaks, Julian Assange is
the founder of WikiLeaks ~ a claim which he has not denied is his many interviews which can
be found on You Tube. Criminal charges [alleged rape and alleged molestation] have been filed and withdrawn and
are now being reconsidered based on Julian's alleged sexual contact with two different women in Sweden. Rape is a serious charge in any country and in all
cultures. In some Scandanavian countries, rapists are quite properly castrated with
chemical castration. I am one of those lawyers who takes the "old fashioned" point of
view that the person accused of rape should be entitled to a jury trial. Accusation is not
tantamount to guilt; and the lynch mob needs to bide its time.
Wikipedia currently explains under the heading "2010 Legal Difficulties" the criminal allegations as follows:
"On 20 August 2010, an investigation was opened against Assange in Sweden in connection with an allegation that he had raped a woman in Enköping on the weekend of 14 August after a seminar, and two days later had sexually harassed a second woman he been staying with in Stockholm. The second woman belonged to the Brotherhood, a Christian affiliate of the country's Social Democratic Party, and was acting as Assange's spokeswoman. Within 24 hours of the investigation opening, the chief prosecutor Eva Finné withdrew the warrant saying there was no reason to suspect he had committed rape, although Karin Rosander of the Swedish Prosecution Authority said he was still being investigated for a lesser charge of molestation—which covers reckless conduct or inappropriate physical contact—a charge not serious enough to trigger an arrest warrant."
The question arises whether Julian Assange
should resign from his leadership and spokesmanship role at WikiLeaks during the pendency of these
allegations and/or prosecutions, and my position is solid: ~ Julian Assange should not resign based solely on
condemnation by a mob who, with its frontal lobes stripped away, is willing to accept accusation as tantamount to guilt.
He is, afterall, the lightning rod for WikiLeaks and any other spokesperson within that organization who
might suceed him would also face a barage of blistering attacks for publishing classified documents.
Julian Assange is not a public servant. A public servant who has been elected by his
community or who has been appointed by his government cannot function without an atmosphere of "business as usual." Julian Assange, on the other hand, is an entrepreneur who
has not taken any oath to defend and support a Constitution. He is not running for
election, and he won't be running for re-election. While it is true that the criminal
allegations detract from his work at WikiLeaks, it is also true that he will always be
hounded and pursued by detractors who will blame him for their headaches, their heartaches
and every crop failure since he launched WikiLeaks. His release of Collateral Murder has infuriated the United States government and Pentagon. This video alone would expose Mr. Assange or his successor to a torrent of criticism, and I am hard pressed to believe that any successor could deal with that pressure better than Julian Assange.
In this day and age of the internet,
Julian Assange's detractors will never lack opportunities to slander him and to plague
him with unsupported rumors about his supposed sins, errors and omissions. His "baggage" is slight, and it
fits nicely under his airplane seat as he continues his travels. He is a counterculture character who
shall continue to be vulnerable with or without sexual misconduct allegations. If these events lead to his
conviction of a crime, he should have the option of making that decision after guilt is established. Resignation would be interpreted at the present time as weakness and an
implied admission of wrongdoing ~ wrongdoing in his sexual life and wrongdoing in publishing classified
documents before, after and during his criminal trial. Therefore, Julian Assange is
indeed fulfilling his role as spokesperson for WikiLeaks by defending himself. Any spokesperson for
WikiLeaks would face the same or similar political pressure. WikiLeaks needs continuity. A rapid fire
sucession of "resignations" at WikiLeaks would surely destroy WikiLeaks' credibility. The continued
leadership of Julian Assange ~ even while he is under siege ~ is defensible for the present time.
Wiki Leaks has embarrassed the American
government once again on November 30, 2010 with its release of secret State Department cables
which chronicle the confidential remarks of high echelon State Department officials and their foreign counterparts.
Remarks about pre-emptive military strikes (against Iran, for example) are attributed to the King
of Saudia Arabia; comments characterizing North Korea as a "spoiled child" are attributed to
Chinese diplomats; and confidential assessments of Iran's nuclear strategy are attributed to
American diplomats ~ among others! Furthermore, Julian Assange has announced that he plans
to publish proof of banker's corruption involving at least two major U.S. banks in the near
future. WikiLeaks had its beginnings in disclosing military secrets, but the scope and broad
sweep of his focus is increasing. Rollo May (existentialist psychologist) said it best
when he quoted Nietzsche: "The first adherents of a movement are no argument against it."
Do we all benefit when secrecy is exposed, and the diplomats who are embarrassed
become more discreet in future communications? The United States Department of Justice is
indeed threatening to prosecute Julian Assange for espionage. Legal scholars are asking whether
that prosecution is viable, and journalists are questioning whether this legal approach would
have a chilling effect on all journalists. Meanwhile, England has taken custody of Julian Assange
based on Sweden's Warrant for his arrest, and extradition to Sweden (or indeed, to the United States) is highly probable. Finally,
Julian Assange's colleagues at WikiLeaks have embarked upon a new venture which they name OpenLeaks.
With or without the Resignation of Julian Assange, the story is changing hour by hour, and WikiLeaks
is becoming unstable.
Julian Assange has demonstrated that he is scrappy.
Julian Assange obviously believes that this is a time to display his courage and fortitude. Critics should at least listen to his interviews, [Interview with TED],
and he comes across as a scholarly gentleman who is quite capable of being combative at the
appropriate time. We reserve judgment: ~ Is Julian Assange a Rogue Elephant or is he a gladiator for the Truth?
While we reserve judgment, we should at least appreciate his
feeling that resignation would be interpreted as an act of cowardice.
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