LexisNexis: Cabinet Resignations Not as Prolific as Past Presidents

The last five administrations resemble revolving door

Nov 15, 2004, 00:00 ET from LexisNexis

    DAYTON, Ohio, Nov. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The flurry of resignations from
 President George Bush's cabinet seems significant, but, compared to past
 administrations, is still not all that monumental, a study of data on
 LexisNexis has revealed. LexisNexis is a leading provider of legal, news,
 business and risk information.
     From forced resignations to mass resignations, the leader of the most
 powerful nation in the world has historically endured changes in his
 leadership team. For instance, in 1841, John Tyler's administration was rocked
 by the resignation of all but one cabinet member -- a symbolic protest to his
 demanding policies. Then, more than 130 years later, President Jimmy Carter
 demanded the resignation of all of his cabinet members, later accepting only
     Putting together the best, most qualified and publicly appealing cabinet
 is not the simple task it appears to be. And, once that cabinet is assembled,
 keeping it together is another monumental task, a search of the LexisNexis(R)
 database indicates. In that study of the five most recent administrations,
 positions on presidential cabinets were more like revolving doors.
     On Monday, four of President Bush's cabinet secretaries resigned, bringing
 to six the total of his key leaders to quit since his re-election. The White
 House announced Monday resignations of Colin Powell, secretary of state, Ann
 Veneman, agriculture secretary, Rod Paige, education secretary and Spencer
 Abraham, energy secretary. Earlier, Donald Evans, commerce secretary, and John
 Ashcroft, attorney general, resigned.
     In all, eight people have resigned from Bush's original cabinet. In 2001,
 Mel Martinez, housing and urban development secretary, and Paul O'Neill,
 treasury secretary, stepped down.
     The search of the more than 32,000 LexisNexis sources and four billion-
 plus documents indicates that the administration of Ronald Reagan was the most
 plagued with resignations, minus Carter's  "July massacre," as dubbed by the
     With the exception of his vice president, Reagan saw all but one of his
 cabinet positions change hands during his two terms in office from 1981-1989.
 Only Samuel Pierce made it through both terms in his position as HUD
 secretary. In addition to the cabinet musical chairs, Reagan endured four
 chiefs of staff and six national security advisors, with Colin Powell holding
 that post for the last two years of that administration. And, there was the
 resignation of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, famous for his "I am in
 control here in the White House" comment after Reagan was shot by John
     The LexisNexis search shows that many of Reagan's top leaders left office
 under a cloud of legal proceedings with the Iran Contra investigation leaving
 a vast amount of carnage in its wake. The highest ranking and most powerful
 person indicted was Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who was charged with
 lying and concealing nearly 2,000 pages of details of the affair. John
 Poindexter, one of the six national security advisors, was convicted of
 obstructing Congress after he approved financing that led to the Iran Contra
 debacle. His conviction was overturned on appeal.
     James Watt was not an Iran Contra victim. It was his mouth that got him
 into trouble. He resigned his Secretary of Interior position in disgrace in
 1983 after making off-color comments about minorities and religion.
     While Reagan's administration saw a Secretary du jour, things calmed down
 slightly for his successor, George Herbert Walker Bush, according to the
 LexisNexis database. Only seven cabinet secretaries, or half of his leadership
 team, saw it fit to leave office during GHW Bush's single term in office. And,
 only one of his seven resignations was under inauspicious conditions --
 Education Secretary Lauro Cavazos, who was forced out by Chief of Staff John
     On the other side of the coin, the Democrats have seen their fair share of
 resignations, the LexisNexis search shows. Eight of Jimmy Carter's cabinet
 members eventually resigned during his one term in office. Only his
 secretaries of education, labor, agriculture, interior and defense made it
 through Carter's four years.
     Other top administration officials, including Carter's Ambassador to the
 United Nations, Andrew Young, were forced out. In Young's case, it was because
 of unauthorized meetings with PLO leaders. For Bert Lance, Carter's budget
 director, allegations of financial improprieties cost him his job.
     The last Democrat to head the White House is Bill Clinton. Before he
 finished his second term in office, he had 10 of his original cabinet members
 resign and several of their replacements also resign. Clinton had four
 commerce secretaries and three secretaries of treasury, defense, and energy.
 Only his attorney general and secretaries of the interior, education, and
 health and human services endured all eight years of Clinton's presidency.
     His non-cabinet senior leadership also saw a lot of turmoil. His chief of
 staff, Mack McLarty, was "encouraged" to leave the White House to allow for
 some controls and organization to be instilled. White House administrator
 David Watkins resigned after it was reveled he used a government chopper to go
 on a golf outing. White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum resigned amid the
 Whitewater scandal. Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell was also a
 Whitewater victim. And, Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders finally packed it in
 after her highly criticized stance on abortion, drug legislation and sex
     Other interesting anecdotes discovered in the LexisNexis search:
      - Andrew Jackson appointed four secretaries of state and five secretaries
        of the treasury within five years.
      - Gerald Ford cleaned house by firing his secretary of defense for
        insubordination; his secretary of agriculture for making a racist joke;
        his CIA director to "bring change to the agency" after a 1975
        investigation; and his vice president to get a fresh face on the 1976
        Republican ticket.
      - Lyndon Johnson so detested his attorney general appointment that he
        labeled it his "biggest mistake." When Johnson heard Richard Nixon
        denounce that attorney general in a campaign speech, Johnson was
        reported to have said "I had to sit on my hand so I wouldn't cheer it."
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 Bender, Butterworths, JurisClasseur, Abeledo-Perrot and Orac.

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