[FOUNTAIN]Advice to staffers"I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport."
Vincent W. Foster was a lifetime friend of former President Bill Clinton and his deputy White House counsel. A few days before taking his own life with a pistol in the summer of 1993, Mr. Foster wrote a memorandum expressing the enormous pressure, frustration and agony he had to endure as a presidential staff member.
At that time, Mr. Foster was being attacked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the political opposition and the media. Most of all, there were constant disputes over politics and power struggles between hardliners and moderates at the White House that wore him out. Mr. Foster was investigated in relation to the White House's Travel Office scandals and questioned about his political responsibility for the two unsuccessful nominations of candidates for attorney general. The idealistic medical reforms that Mr. Foster helped Hillary Clinton craft were failures because of media opposition.
Washington politicians and the media made Mr. Foster a scapegoat in order to tame the first couple from Arkansas, who were unfamiliar and seemed arrogant.
The mystery over the death of Vince Foster, 48, was solved to some extent one year after. The independent counsel found secret documents revealing information related to the Whitewater scandal, including land speculation, tax evasion and abuse of authority apparently committed by the Clintons. Mr. Foster was found to have hidden the documents. In the memo, he said, "I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and overwork."
President-elect Roh Moo-hyun's aides should think about how they would act if they were in Mr. Foster's shoes when they enter the Blue House. People who have been through life in the Blue House know it is important to maintain one's physical and mental health. Those who are close to the president are likely to be targets of politicians and the media. They will be watched for misuse of authority. They must be careful in personnel matters. Too much idealism can be detrimental to the president and to themselves. Those who lie will pay the price. They should be able to persuade the first couple that the truth is the best policy. If one does not fit into the world of power struggles, he should leave it.
by Chun Young-gi
The writer is a senior political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
Finding our place
Diplomacy is about trust
More good than harm
For balanced information intake