From: Harriet E. Miers and Andrew H. Card Jr.
To: All Staff Members, Executive Office of the President
Re: Ethics Refresher Course
Dear White House Staffer:
As you may have recently learned from either Fox News or The Washington Times, your President and Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, has requested that all White House Staffers take a mandatory refresher course in “ethics.”
Please do not misinterpret this request in any way as a negative reflection upon your good character.
We know that you are all upstanding, God-fearing, loyal and law-abiding patriots who have only the President’s best interests in mind. And you can always be counted upon to “Do the Right Thing” for both the President, and our Great Nation.
However, from time to time, certain “issues” may arise that might be considered “gray areas”—including, but not limited to: domestic policy, foreign policy, the United Nations, Social Security, tax cuts, press relations, the war on terrorism, Iraq, Iran, weapons of mass destruction, Homeland Security, the federal budget, deficit spending, immigration, the environment, the Supreme Court, Guantánamo Bay, the use of torture, non-combatant status, North Korea, Donald Rumsfeld, disaster relief, the Patriot Act, the President’s vacation plans, and/or any legislative initiatives currently under consideration, or contemplated in the near or distant future.
Now obviously, the simplest way to deal with these nettlesome issues might be to look inward and seek guidance from a higher authority, in rising order: 1) “What would the President do?” 2) “What would Jesus do?” Or 3) “What would Karl Rove do?”
But if none of these offer easy solutions, the following might be of help.
PART ONE: ETHICAL GUIDELINES.
1) Leaks. Under no circumstances will the White House tolerate or condone any leaks to the press, unless they are absolutely necessary, or can be qualified as “legitimate spin.” (Please check with your supervisor if you’re having trouble with the distinction.) Do not use e-mails; communicate only via smoke signals, using Esperanto, in a secure location–or better still, over breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel. Please take pains to make sure you are not identified as a White House staffer. (“Former Hill staffer” is the current preferred appellation.) If you must leak, please use one of our authorized “alternate sources of content distribution”: Bob Novak, Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Fox News. You may not contact The New Yorker’s Seymour (“Sy”) Hersh, or anyone at The New York Times other than Judith Miller. Finally, please bear in mind that while character assassination is acceptable, the assassination of Bush 43 policies is not.
2) The Handling of Classified Material. All so-called “intelligence reports,” “top-secret documents” and “super-duper state secrets” are to be handled with the utmost discretion. For example: Anything that contradicts our current policies (i.e., the War in Iraq) or undermines our ability to govern (i.e., the lack of W.M.D.) should be immediately placed in the circular file underneath your desk. On the other hand, any “intelligence reports,” “top-secret documents” or “super-duper state secrets” that validate our efforts may be immediately faxed, or sent via messenger, to one of our approved “alternate sources of content distribution.” When in doubt, please check with Karl Rove, or Dick Cheney.
3) Employment, Hiring Practices and Conflicts of Interest. The Bush administration prides itself on being an equal-opportunity employer. This does not preclude hiring blacks, Hispanics, former directors of Halliburton, your former college roommates, members of the Houston Oilmen’s Club, alumni of the Bush 41 administration, nor the sons and daughters of current government officials. In light of recent events, however, it’s probably not a good idea to nominate yourself to the Supreme Court.
4) Wars, Torture, Invasions. Generally speaking, the Bush administration prefers to follow the laws of the land, including the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Obviously, this is only a guideline—a “best efforts” recommendation. Should you feel the need to invade a sovereign nation, authorize torture, or operate outside what is generally considered to be the norms of a civilized society, please contact the Attorney General’s office for a waiver.
5) Bribes and Corruption. The Bush administration firmly rejects any attempts to buy or influence our policies, unless the check is clearly marked “Republican National Committee, Midterm 2006 Re-election Campaign.” In short, there must never be the appearance of an obvious, indictable quid pro quo. But then, that’s what “no-bid” government contracts are for.
PART TWO: TEST YOUR ETHICS I.Q.
Now, let’s put some of these rules to practical use.
1) Gloating over the withdrawal of our most recent Supreme Court nominee, the Democrats were expecting us to nominate a middle-of-the-road woman justice. Under the acceptable terms of “payback,” we will nominate: A) A guy. B) A white guy. C) A white guy who’s Roman Catholic. D) A white guy who’s not only Roman Catholic, but whose mother insists that he’s going to overturn Roe v. Wade.
2) Jeb is a Republican governor in a state with 27 electoral votes; Kathleen is the Democrat governor of a nearby state with only 9. Please explain how you would allocate disaster-relief funds.
3) When Judith Miller returns to the New York Times newsroom, do you think it would be unethical to send a huge horseshoe-shaped floral arrangement with a sash reading: “Welcome back! You’re still on the team! Love, Karl”?
4) Upon learning that the President’s approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, do you: A) Put partisanship aside and redouble your efforts to work harder for all Americans, or B) Call in a terrorism threat to Homeland Security and scare the bejeezus out of everybody?
5) The President has entrusted you to send Christmas gifts to Time magazine’s Matt Cooper and Tim Russert at NBC. The appropriate choice is: A) A small token of our appreciation valued at less than $50. B) I.R.S. audits.
6) Iraq. Got any ideas?
7) The real lesson of Plamegate is: A) Out West, where you vacation, maybe the aspens don’t have such deep roots after all. B) Just wait until next year, when Republican D.A.’s start subpoenaing every newspaper reporter in America, citing Fitzgerald’s investigation as precedent. C) It’s probably not a good idea to tease Scooter Libby that his prison nickname is likely to be Scooter Pie: “Two moist chocolate cookies, with a creamy vanilla filling.” D) When it comes time to dole out the cash at Christmas in New York City apartment buildings, make sure you tip your doorman. And his son. Big time.