The law requires, and people of good conscience are obliged to assume, that former Clinton National Security Adviser and current Kerry for President foreign policy adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger is innocent of the crime of stealing highly classified documents from the National Archives. But inquiring minds are quivering with ferret-like anticipation, while Democratic and Republican politicians are digging their spikes into their respective starting blocks, as Washington is once again off to the scandal races.
As in all true Washington scandals, most of the commentators in politics and journalism come to the scandal predisposed to defend or eviscerate the subject. And, it wouldn't be a true Washington scandal if the subject was not "a good friend" or "a former colleague and good friend" of the commentator -- thus further reducing the chances for honest comment.
The story was first reported by the Associated Press on Monday evening by longtime, respected investigative reporter John Solomon, who characterized his sources as "officials and lawyers," which pretty much describes everyone in town over the age of 24.
The first line of rhetorical defense was laid down early Tuesday morning on the "Today Show" by metropolitico-journalist David Gergen -- former advisor or staffer to Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton, and one of the designated wise men of Washington. "I think it's more innocent than it looks ... I have known Sandy Berger for a long time ... He would never do anything to compromise the security of the United States." Mr. Gergen added, "it is suspicious" that word of the investigation emerged just as the September 11 commission is about to release its report, since "this investigation started months ago."
This doubtlessly heartfelt defensive effort was actually slightly counterproductive. By asserting that it was more innocent than it looked, he let any doubters know that the events looked not innocent, even to friend David Gergen.
Moreover, as he didn't offer any hard evidence to justify his suspicion of innocence, he was left with offering evidence of good character -- which is marginally probative, but rarely persuasive in this age of so many fallen idols and clay-feeted men.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.