I was under the naive impression that Clinton administration scandals would end once the Clinton administration ended. Even I, someone who has not exactly had her eyes closed to Clinton-era buffoonery, did not imagine that the most corrupt administration in the history of the country would find a way to keep having scandals while out of office.
But poor old Sandy Berger ends up in hot water long after everyone's gone home. Someday we'll be reading about Clinton officials causing incidents in nursing homes. (Which Clinton administration official do you imagine that might involve?)
The undisputed facts are these: Clinton's national security adviser removed documents with the highest possible security classification from the National Archives, took them home with him, and disposed of some of the documents. (Still hotly contested is whether Berger also stuffed top-secret documents in his socks.)
The New York Times' response was to hysterically accuse the Bush administration of corruption. In a front-page story the week the story broke, the Times accused the Bush administration of leaking the news of the Berger investigation for cynical political reasons ? based on the Times' careful accretion of no facts whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the front-page story on the scandal itself ? well, actually, that didn't make the front page. That story was demurely reported on page A-16 of the Times.
The Times' defense brief for Berger consisted of the information that Berger's friends say Berger would never do anything to harm his country. It's always good to hear Democrats assure us that one of them isn't a traitor. With the Democrats, you need constant assurances we're not dealing with another Alger Hiss. David Gergen, the Tariq Aziz for the Democrats, says the incident is "more innocent than it looks." Well, it sure couldn't be any less innocent than it looks.
These people think if Dick Cheney uses a word with the letter "H," it's a secret code from the pope proving a conspiracy with Halliburton. But they can't see what all the fuss is about when a former national security adviser comes under criminal investigation and a search warrant is executed on his office and home after he pilfers top-secret government documents. Or at least it's not nearly as consequential as the question of who leaked the story.
The Adam Nagourney of CBS News, Dan Rather, introduced the Mr. Sticky Fingers scandal this way:
Sandy Berger, who was national security adviser under President Clinton, stepped aside today as an adviser to Sen. John Kerry. CBS' John Roberts reports this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence.
The conspiracy nuts' story on Republicans leaking the Berger investigation has been a little short on details, inasmuch as it is based on no evidence, no witnesses, no sources ? not even a plausible theory. As former Moynihan aide Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out, the Bush administration's interests were not served by the leak of the Berger investigation this early in the campaign. As the Democrats have taught us, the best time to release damaging information about your opponent ? say, a 30-year-old DUI ? is about 72 hours before the election.
Tending to support the theory that the Kerry campaign leaked the story is the fact that the Bush White House has known about Berger for months; Kerry was told of the investigation only the week the story was leaked.
Berger's relationship to the Kerry campaign has undergone a massive transformation since news of the Great Hanes Robbery broke. One month ago, the Times was calling Berger one of "Mr. Kerry's top foreign policy advisers." Last week the Times described Berger as "an informal, unpaid adviser to Sen. John Kerry's campaign." By next week he'll be "some guy who heckled Teresa in Milwaukee."
At least they aren't calling Berger a "stalker."
The people who should be on their knees thanking God that W is president are the National Archives employees who caught Sandy Burglar. If Clinton were still president, instead of a serious criminal investigation, we'd get six months of attacks on the poor National Archives employees as trailer trash, sluts, gold-diggers, etc., etc. (Of course, if Clinton were still president, some National Archives employees might well be on their knees, but for a different reason.)
Maybe the Kerry campaign could borrow from another Clinton-era scandal ? the ransacking of the FBI files ? and claim that, like Craig Livingston, no one knows who hired Berger to work on the Kerry campaign.
Given the Democratic scandals, their presidential candidates might consider the following litmus-test question before hiring their campaign staff: "Have you ever put anything into your shorts, or taken anything out of your shorts, that could negatively affect this campaign?"