Two vastly different public officials -- Robert McNamara and Sarah Palin -- shared the spotlight this past week, triggering fresh thoughts about one of the classic dilemmas of governmental careers: When and how do you quit?

McNamara, the defense secretary for John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and later the president of the World Bank, died at 93, ushered out by lengthy obituaries recalling the controversies of the 1960s, including the furor over his unexplained "resignation" at the height of the Vietnam War.

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