The Corner

White House Problem

What to make of the arrest of top White House adviser Claude Allen on shoplifting charges? On a personal level, there’s not much to say. Who knows why a man so successful — and with such a lucrative future ahead of him after his White House service — would do something so crazy as to steal merchandise from a Target store? If the charges against him are true, he truly seems to need help. But what does the Allen affair say about the White House? Well, it seems clear that when Allen first told chief of staff Andrew Card and counsel Harriet Miers in early January that he had had some sort of problem with security and police at a Target store, and then, just days later, told them he was thinking about quitting to spend more time with his family — at that point some serious red flags should have gone up in the West Wing. Yet the White House says Card and Miers gave Allen “the benefit of the doubt” because of his sterling record (and the fact that he had been through extensive background checks in the past). In retrospect, though, the Allen case seems to confirm that, where the president’s reputation is concerned, careful vigilance is better than the benefit of the doubt. Allen’s alleged actions, as terrible as they are for his own reputation, also hurt the White House. Top officials there should have taken action sooner to find out what was going on and deal with it.

That’s one of this week’s “Window on the Week” items. Read the whole corporate glance at the week here.

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