On Rep. Weiner and 'Fiduciary Duty' to the Staff

Joshua Green highlights the predictable but still funny Jimmy Fallon riff on Weiner's "staff."

Here is a message from a friend who has worked in politics for years including as a U.S. Senate staffer. It makes more concrete what I was originally trying to say, about the way one politician's indiscipline can affect the whole team he or she represents. My friend writes, referring to a fictitious fallen-politician in a novel but saying that the logic applies to the Weiner case:

>>...he has betrayed his staff and broken the fundamental bargain with them:  they will work to advance him and his causes, and subsume their identities and interests into his, and in return he will not engage in personal behavior that negates their efforts, embarrasses and humiliates them, and leaves them having wasted all the time they spent in support of him that they could have spent in support of someone else.  I think of it as a fiduciary duty that every Member of Congress owes his or her staff.  Seriously.<<

If you have worked in politics, you have an idea of how powerful this implied bargain is -- and why the reaction from staff and supporters to what they consider a breach can be so severe.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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