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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Analysis: The Teflon White House
President Bush boards a helicopter at the White House
The war on terrorism has helped Bush avoid scandal

The list of senior Bush administration officials affected by the corporate scandals grows ever longer.

President Bush himself, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Army Secretary Thomas White and several others have been implicated in various scandals amid allegations of wrongdoing.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney
Cheney faces scandal allegations
Yet there have been far fewer embarrassing resignations than under any recent president. There are several reasons why.

First, officials' financial records now get examined in enormous detail before they are appointed.

They have to report anything that could be potentially embarrassing - a process that is supposed to make sure that anyone with problems doesn't get the job.

Second, most journalists' attention has been elsewhere.

Clinton era

This is very different from Bill Clinton's time in office, when there were few major foreign policy crises and the economy was growing strongly.

Journalists had time to investigate sometimes small stories about politicians' misdemeanours.

With the fallout from 11 September, there have been more big stories, and investigative reporters have concentrated on intelligence failures instead of scandal.

Third, President Bush has refused to bow to pressure and fire people whose behaviour has been questionable.

President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office
Clinton: constant lawsuits and allegations
Like British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who hates to fire ministers and advisers who are under attack in the media, President Bush thinks it only encourages more scandal-mongering.

Fourth, the Bush White House has been virtually leak-free.

The president and his team place a very high premium on loyalty and being a "team player", which means there is less back-biting between officials and fewer stories emerge that way.

When the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to resign earlier this year, it was for publicly criticising the budget.

Finally, according to one recent report, President Bush believes that while others around him are "taking the flak", it is not hitting him.

Political chess

While this leaves the taint of scandal on his administration, that is infinitely preferable to it attaching to him personally.

The cardinal rule in every administration is to "protect the king".

Several of Mr Bush's closest confidantes have learned that lesson through personal experience: Mr Cheney, for example, when he was chief of staff to President Ford in the 1970s, and Mr Bush's father, then vice-president, during the Iran-Contra scandals of the Reagan presidency.

On the latter occasion, several aides were convicted of serious charges while Mr Reagan himself said he couldn't remember what had happened and escaped punishment.

During the Clinton administration, people worried at how much time was spent defending lawsuits and investigations.

If President Bush is distracted from dealing with the wobbly economy and major problems overseas, the knock-on effect of the current scandals could be serious for all of us.

See also:

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