No Guarantee of Job Security at White House

15 February, 2017

Andrew Puzder has withdrawn as President Donald Trump's nominee for labor secretary. Just two days earlier, Michael Flynn resigned from his position as national security adviser.

Puzder faced united Democratic opposition. And some Senate Republicans were concerned that he employed an undocumented worker as a housekeeper.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets Andy Puzder (right) before Puzder withdrew Wednesday as President Trump's labor secretary nominee.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meets Andy Puzder (right) before Puzder withdrew Wednesday as President Trump's labor secretary nominee.

Flynn's departure came just 24 days into the Trump administration. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Flynn, a retired general, lost the trust of the president.

David Greenberg is a historian at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said he couldn't remember any recent high-level White House official losing his job so quickly.

Flynn's departure is notable for how quickly it occurred. But all recent presidents have asked top administration officials to resign. Some, like Puzder, did not get to serve even one day in the job for which they were nominated.

The last three presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, all pulled back important nominations after questions were raised about their choices.

For Obama, it was his first choice for health secretary. For Bush, it was a nominee for the Supreme Court. And for Clinton, it was his first two choices for attorney general.

Senate says no

President George H.W. Bush, who served just before Clinton, wanted former Senator John Tower to be his defense secretary. But the Senate defeated his nomination. His second choice, Richard Cheney, won Senate approval.

Here are some examples of high-ranking officials forced to give up top jobs in recent presidential administrations:

President Barack Obama, Democrat, 2009-2017

In April 2014, President Obama's health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, resigned following a troubled start of the national health law, known as Obamacare.

Another resignation came from Eric Shinseki, who was forced to leave as Veterans Affairs secretary after employees hid long wait times for medical care.

George W. Bush, Republican, 2001-2009

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned from President George W. Bush's cabinet in 2006. Rumsfeld's departure was a sign the war in Iraq was not going well, said Greenberg, the Rutgers University history professor.

Bill Clinton, Democrat, 1993-2001.

President Clinton's surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, was forced to resign. She had called for study of legalizing some illegal drugs and making birth control available at public schools.

Two other top health officials resigned to protest a Clinton decision. They said a welfare reform law approved by the president would hurt poor people.

George H. W. Bush, Republican, 1989-1993

President George H.W. Bush asked his chief of staff, John Sununu, to step down after complaints he was too hard on White House officials, and news reports he used military airplanes for personal trips.

Ronald Reagan, Republican, 1981-1989

Two of President Ronald Reagan's National Security advisors, John Poindexter and Robert McFarlane, resigned over the Iran-Contra scandal. It involved the sale of weapons to Iran, with money going to help arm Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Congress had blocked federal money for the rebel effort.

Reagan's national security aide Oliver North was also forced out over the Iran-Contra scandal.

Another high-level resignation came in 1982. Secretary of State Alexander Haig stepped down, saying he disagreed with some of Reagan's foreign policy decisions. Haig is most remembered for declaring, "As of now, I am in control here in the White House," after the 1981 assassination attempt against Reagan.

Jimmy Carter, Democrat, 1977-1981

Bert Lance was budget director under President Jimmy Carter. He resigned after questions were raised about loans and other decisions he made while running a bank in the state of Georgia.

Gerald Ford, Republican 1974-1977

Jerald terHorst was press secretary for President Gerald Ford. He resigned to protest Ford's decision to pardon former President Richard Nixon. The pardon freed Nixon from facing criminal charges for the "Watergate scandal."

Richard Nixon, Republican, 1969-1974

The biggest resignation of President Richard Nixon's presidency was his own. Nixon resigned in 1974 after Congress was ready to remove him from office for covering up the break-in at Democratic headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex.

The "Watergate scandal" also forced other Nixon aides to resign.

Flynn Says He's Still Behind Trump

Most people who give up top White House jobs continue to praise the president.

In a statement, Andrew Puzder said he was honored to have been considered for the position of labor secretary, and he praised Trump for helping to "put America's workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity."

Flynn also said he had been "honored" to serve President Trump. He credited Trump with helping bring back "America's leadership position in the world."

According to a White House report on presidential history, before Flynn, the earliest resignation of a national security adviser was William Jackson. He lost the job four months after President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him.

Henry Kissinger held the job the longest, from 1969 to 1975, under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

employ - v. to provide (someone) with a job that pays wages or a salary

undocumented - adj. not having the official documents that are needed to enter, live in, or work in a country legally

departure - n. to leave a place, or position

birth control - n. drugs and devices to keep a woman from becoming pregnant

welfare - n. a government program for poor or unemployed people that helps pay for food, housing and medical costs

scandal - n. an action that is morally or legally wrong

break-in - n. to gain entry into a building or place without permission

credit - v. to recognize something that someone has done