Cal  Thomas

Berger, like the author of some of the missing documents, Richard Clarke, has been highly critical of the Bush administration for the war in Iraq and its battle against terrorism. Berger might have been looking for documents that, however inadvertently or accidentally, could have put the claims of the Clinton administration into some doubt.

Berger's lawyer, Lanny Breuer, acknowledges that his client was in "technical violation of Archives procedure, but it is not clear to us this represents a violation of the law." Only high-priced lawyers make and understand such distinctions. If normal people did this, we'd be doing the perp walk for the cameras.

Kerry, who has benefited from Berger's advice for his presidential campaign, cut any political losses by accepting Berger's resignation. Ben Ginsburg, national counsel for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, understandably wants to make political hay out of this. Ginsburg says the big question is whether the Kerry team got their hands on any of the information from the documents -- and "did they benefit from documents that they should not have had?"

In an understatement, Senator Trent Lott, R-Miss., said, "Obviously, the timing is not good" for Kerry. Other Republicans and Democrats, who understand how the political game is played in Washington, were more reserved, or forgiving.

Whether this story has legs will depend on what happens next. If, as in department stores, there was a camera in the secure room of the Archives, and if there are pictures of Berger emulating actress Winona Ryder in her clothes-stuffing role three years ago, one can imagine the campaign commercial possibilities.

For shoplifting, Ryder got three years probation and 480 hours of community service. There's a difference between shoplifting and removing highly classified documents and stuffing them in your pants. Accidentally and inadvertently, of course.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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