We all make mistakes.
And when staffers make mistakes — like being caught on camera necking with your boss — the fallout is particularly scintillating.
Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., is weathering such a scandal (which broke after a video surfaced showing him kissing one of his employees) in predicable ways. He’s said he’s sorry. He’s skipped votes to avoid the inevitable press gaggle. And he’s dug in his heels and announced he has no plans to resign anytime soon.
“There’s no doubt I’ve fallen short and I’m asking for forgiveness,” McAllister said in the statement Monday. “I’m asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. Trust is something I know has to be earned whether your a husband, a father, or a congressman. I promise to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I’ve disappointed.”
But Hill Navigator is not here to handle crisis communications or run the latest poll numbers for Louisiana’s 5th District. This is a staffer advice column, after all. So, in honor of the latest staffer fail, here is a staffer fallout guide to help navigate the rough waters ahead.
1) Protect the boss. Whatever you do and whomever you do it with, remember that you are the staffer and your boss’s reputation is yours to protect. Hill Navigator doesn’t condone illegal activities, but barring that, your job is to foresee such situations and cleverly plan to avoid them. Affairs with the boss are generally a bad idea, but if you insist on having one, be savvy enough to pick a time and location without a security camera. Particularly if your boss has political opponents nipping at his heels.
2) Don’t take it out on your colleagues. Sure, they’re miffed that your year-end bonus was bigger (and now they know why) but don’t take your anguish out on them. If your co-workers are standing by you, then apologize for your role and tell them how much their support means to you. Because you will need it.
3) If they turn on you, run. Sometimes even the best of staffers have to fall on their swords. Scooter Libby was convicted of a felony and disbarred. Andrew Young falsely claimed paternity. Kurt Bardella was put on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and not by choice. If your team has decided you are taking the blame — or they’ve hung you out to dry — make a quick and graceful exit while the political maelstrom subsides. There will be some kindhearted (or opportunity-seeking) people who reach out to you. Once the time is right, they can help you with your next steps.
4) Cable news always moves on. There will be more mistakes, and more tearful apologies. The political pundits will find new fodder. Headlines change. And when they do, the staffer can rise again. Libby’s sentence was commuted. Young got a book deal. Even Bardella was hired back by Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif. You, too, can bounce back. Congress is nothing if not for its staffers. And a mistake learned keenly once is likely not to be repeated again.