Oval Office Etiquette: A G.O.P. Guide to Acceptable Behavior from a President

In Governing and the Cabinet, How We Behave, New York Times Editorial On
- Updated

Curator note: Every day, every week legions of parents, school teachers, principals and countless others teach and model American values of respect, honesty, courage, integrity and ethical behavior. And now, every day, our children are exposed to extreme examples of disrespect, contempt, dishonesty, incompetence, poor judgment and highly dangerous and unethical behavior from the president of the United States. We are also witnessing a country that does not have enough, or the right kind of adults, that will step forward and protect American children.


It wasn’t so long ago that Republicans in Congress cared about how a president comported himself in office. They cared a lot! The president is, after all, commander in chief of the armed forces, steward of the most powerful nation on earth, role model for America’s children — and he should act at all times with the dignity his station demands. It’s not O.K. to behave in a manner that demeans the office and embarrasses the country. Shirt sleeves in the Oval Office? Disrespectful. Shoes on the Resolute desk? Even worse. Lying? Despicable, if not impeachable.

Now seems like a good moment to update the standards. What do Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders think a president may say or do and still deserve their enthusiastic support? We offer this handy reference list in hopes of protecting them from charges of hypocrisy in the future. They can consult it should they ever feel tempted to insist on different standards for another president. So, herewith, the Congressional Republican’s Guide to Presidential Behavior.

If you are the president, you may freely:

attack private citizens on Twitter

delegitimize federal judges who rule against you

refuse to take responsibility for military actions gone awry

fire the F.B.I. chief in the middle of his expanding investigation into your campaign and your associates

accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense

employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power

blame the judiciary, in advance, for any terror attacks

call the media “the enemy of the American people”

demand personal loyalty from the F.B.I. director

threaten the former F.B.I. director

accept foreign payments to your businesses, in possible violation of the Constitution

occupy the White House with the help of a hostile foreign power

intimidate congressional witnesses

allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business

neglect to fill thousands of crucial federal government positions for months

claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally

fail to fire high-ranking members of your national security team for weeks, even after knowing they lied to your vice president and exposed themselves to blackmail

refuse to release tax returns

hide the White House visitors’ list from the public

vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend

use an unsecured personal cellphone

criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products

review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the “nuclear football” to be photographed and identified by name

obstruct justice

hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time

promote family businesses on federal government websites

tweet, tweet, tweet

collude with members of Congress to try to shut down investigations of you and your associates

threaten military conflict with other nations in the middle of news interviews

compare the U.S. intelligence community to Nazis

• display complete ignorance about international relations, your own administration’s policies, American history and the basic structure of our system of government

skip daily intelligence briefings

repeat untruths


If you’re a Republican legislator, stick this list on the fridge and give it a quick read the next time you get upset at a president.

If you think we have left something out, please leave a comment with this article, or on our Facebook page. We’ll update the Congressional Republican’s Guide with some of your suggestions in a follow-up article.

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