Robert Novak

 The actual language by Schmitz, in a Jan. 31 letter to senators, is harsh: "We substantiated the allegation that Secretary Roche's e-mail constituted a use of public office for private gain in violation of the applicable DOD [Department of Defense] ethics regulations. Because the e-mail implied Air Force sanction for employment recommended in behalf of Ms. Cleveland's brother, Secretary Roche's e-mail also violated DOD standards that govern personal use of the government communications system."

 The inspector general noted that he has provided superiors with the results of the investigation but made no recommendations for penalties. The reason: Roche has finally left his Air Force office after a long lame-duck period.

 Roche tried to keep secret his e-mails with Cleveland on grounds they had nothing do with the Boeing tanker deal. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, told McCain in the senator's office that correspondence about Cleveland's brother "was just a joke." In fact, it was deadly serious, and Ms. Cleveland herself raised the tanker deal in connection with her brother's job.

 One message July 24, 2002, to Roche from now retired Maj. Gen. LeRoy Barnidge admits outright that the Air Force was stalling McCain's efforts to get to the bottom of the case. Barnidge contended McCain aide Chris Paul "has been playing a pretty heavy game with us," and the general revealed "I have been stalling" Paul's requests, and referred to "this game with Chris."

 Boeing's survivors sound penitent of the way they played "this game," but the Air Force is still covering up. Roche left his office unrepentant and continues to be excused and celebrated at the highest levels of the Pentagon. That's why it is important for John McCain to keeping digging into the foundations of the military-industrial complex.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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