Every twenty-eight days you get a full moon, and there’s much anecdotal evidence that odd things happen at full-moon time. Of course that’s just silly, but the last full moon, Ansel Adams’ birthday, was odd enough – John McCain had an affair with a young blonde lobbyist? Not much came of that, but that was also when Hillary Clinton began her Obama-is-a-child efforts – she looked stern and told us all to get serious. Perhaps it was the full moon.
The official full moon came to Los Angeles again on Thursday, March 20, 2008, at 10:40 – late evening – but the crazy full-moon story broke earlier in the evening, and it really was odd:
Two contract employees for the State Department have been fired and a third disciplined for inappropriately looking at Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s passport file, a spokesman said Thursday.
Spokesman Sean McCormack said the department itself detected the instances of “imprudent curiosity,” which occurred separately on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14. He would not release the names of those who were fired and disciplined.
“We believe this was out of imprudent curiosity, so we are taking steps to reassure ourselves that that is, in fact, the case,” McCormack said.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama’s presidential campaign, called for a complete investigation.
Well, imprudent curiosity is said to have killed many a cat. But this was odd, and such a thing had happened before.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, officials in the administration of President George H. W. Bush searched the State Department files of then-Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. An inspector general’s report called the search improper and said it was aimed at finding material that would be damaging to Clinton’s campaign.
At the time of the searches, which took place Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 1992, Republicans were criticizing Clinton for anti-Vietnam War activities when he was a student at Oxford University in England in 1969-70. Officials looked into the passport files after rumors sparked freedom of information requests from the news media and a Republican congressman, but later discovered that privacy laws would bar their disclosure, the report said.
So we got a three-year investigation, one that cost well over two million dollars, and finally independent counsel Joseph diGenova concluded in a separate report – in 1995 – that some of the actions he had investigated had been “stupid, dumb and partisan” but not criminal. The idea seems to have been to find out if Bill had made secret trips to North Vietnam while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, betraying America and playing Pinochle with Jane Fonda while smoking dope. That’s something you could use – you could destroy the man. But none of that was in the passport files and this independent counsel found the effort to uncover such things, while obviously partisan, no big deal, or no criminal deal.
It is actually – see The Privacy Act of 1974 and such things. And there seems to be something a bit wrong with using the resources of the State Department to dig up the dirt, if you can find any, on a rising young politician of the opposition party, and a sitting US Senator. And there could be something like secret trips to North Korea and Iran, betraying America and playing Pinochle with Jane Fonda while smoking dope – Obama spent much of his childhood in mostly Muslim Indonesia. He’s travelled a lot – and the passport file might contain consular notes on what he had done, who he had met, and of course what was feared. That’s pretty tempting.
But the State Department said the three fishing expeditions in question were done by contractors hired to do data entry, and this didn’t seem like anything more than three different foolish people messing around – and they paid the price. State’s new acting Inspector General – the post is empty as the previous one had lied under oath about his brother’s being on the board of Blackwater (which he had refused to investigate) and resigned – said this was no big deal. He looked at what happened and saw it all as harmless, so he did not refer any of it to Justice, or tell anyone up the chain of command. Secretary of State Rice said she just heard of it – so how could anyone think this was her problem.
This came up on Dan Abrams’ MSNBC show Verdict (video here), and Abrams chatted with Joseph diGenova, of all people. With the video you’ll find Logan Murphy’s comment:
The State Department is saying that Secretary of State, Condi Rice, is saying that she only learned of the breaches yesterday and as diGenova states, it is inexcusable that she wouldn’t know about something this important and that it shows an incredible lack of leadership and gross negligence. DiGenova also says that even if the Inspector General does do a formal investigation, the employees who were fired cannot be called to testify. In light of these facts, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should call for a full investigation immediately, and these employees’ computers, bank and phone records should be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC noted that each intrusion happened within a day or so of an Obama victory – Iowa, Wisconsin/Hawaii and Mississippi. Coincidence? We need to know who knew what, and when.
And Murphy adds this:
To put this into perspective, diGenova is outraged by the news of this compromise, and he’s known for being a partisan hack who believes he was a victim of the White House slander machine during the Clinton administration, just happens to be married to Victoria Toensing, counsel on the impeachment case against Clinton and who testified before Congress in the Valerie Plame case, repeatedly attacked Plame and saying that she was not a covert CIA operative.
In short, if this guy is outraged – a guy who hates the Democrats and loves the Bush folks – this may be a big deal.
Was harm done? Probably not – but the folks at State were saying they had no idea if whatever these three dug up was passed along to others – which would be a criminal act. They might or might not look into that – the night of the full moon they were saying probably not, as it just didn’t seem so. The first night’s strategy was clear – no big deal. One thinks of Watergate – just a minor break-in by some nobodies. But by the end of the evening the State Department knew that their no-big-deal gambit wouldn’t fly – they said they would be “investigating whether political or other motives were involved.” They don’t seem to like it much, but they will.
What an odd thing, and as the full moon crested over the Hollywood Hills, working its way up the sky, there was the sound from the far room – Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow chatting on television, talk of how it would be nice to know who the systems contractor was – the contractor that employed these three. What if the contractor had ties to the Republican Party? Well, the plot would thicken of course. Olbermann said if the contractor turned out to be Halliburton he’d buy everyone in America a beer. One assumes, however, that the systems contractor was CSC or EDS or some such organization. If that’s the case, as those of us who have worked for such folks know, there was nothing nefarious going on – they’re not that focused. Ah, you had to be in the project planning meetings – you’d understand.
But on the night of the full moon, Mark Kleiman, of UCLA School of Public Policy, suggested staying calm:
I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that snooping into Obama’s passport records was some sort of Administration plot. After all, you only need to snoop once to get dirt on your opponent; three violations by three different people on three different dates seems more consistent with either curiosity or venality (hoping to find something hot to sell to the tabs or a rival campaign) than with political skullduggery organized from the top.
Still, doesn’t it seem strange that the January incident, which led to the contract employee being fired, is only now coming to the attention of the Department’s top management? Smells like a significant systems failure to me. Who decided to keep the story bottled up for two months? And have criminal referrals been made?
So Kleiman adds that odd twist – three people hoping to sell something juicy to the tabloids for a good price. That’s also possible, but his comments on the organization are more telling. If this is not a plot, we’re dealing with an organization led by clowns.
So who would run a better organization? McCain? See McCain Aide Suspended For Pushing Anti-Obama Video – yeah, there’s that YouTube video, clips of Obama, his wife, his angry pastor shouting, Malcolm X, the black guys at the Mexico City Olympics on the winners’ podium with their black power salutes, and an abandoned flag lapel-pin, all set to loud “Get Whitey” music. McCain’s aide sent the link everywhere. McCain said he’d fire the aide, but as McCain is a nice guy, he said he’d only suspend him, and then provided reporters the link if they wanted to take a look. Now that’s the way to run an organization, or not. It was pretty pathetic, but actually effective. The full moon drives men mad – and those Dark Men are coming to get you.
But that pastor remains a problem – see Clinton Surrogate Says Questions on Wright Remain Unanswered. How much does Obama really agree with Jeremiah Wright’s anger – and the subtext, what do black people have to be angry about really, as we have generously given them everything they wanted, and more? The Clinton folks had to do this of course, because of the new poll – Majority Doesn’t Believe Obama Shares Wright’s Views. That really is a problem.
But there was the full-moon press – word that Bill Clinton had been in private meetings with the superdelegates, telling them Obama was a disaster and the angry black pastor would sink the Democratic Party if Obama were the nominee. Hillary was asked if her people were in such meetings, playing the race card, trying to scare the superdelegates, and she just shrugged. She wouldn’t answer the question. On the night of the full moon she gets odd.
Why not? Things were turning sour – the Michigan legislature adjourned without passing revote plan, so there will be no re-vote there or in Florida, just a possible fifty-fifty split, settling nothing. And the same night John Edwards came to Burbank to tape the Jay Leno show, but he’s still not endorsing anyone – Rats!
And there was all that business over NAFTA – she said she always opposed it, but as hard as she fought it, the records of her activities as First Lady were finally released, and they showed planning meetings and arm-twisting by her to get the thing passed into law. Oops. The Obama folks were all over that – she owes everyone an apology.
Not likely – she was way up in the polling prior to the Pennsylvania primary, by sixteen points, and there were things like this to cheer her up – Obama’s Church Steeped in Black Liberation Theology. That sort of thing could be helpful.
And at the Huffington Post, her life-long friend, Lanny Davis, was asking questions:
1. If a white minister preached sermons to his congregation and had used the “N” word and used rhetoric and words similar to members of the KKK, would you support a Democratic presidential candidate who decided to continue to be a member of that congregation? 2. Would you support that candidate if, after knowing of or hearing those sermons, he or she still appointed that minister to serve on his or her “Religious Advisory Committee” of his or her presidential campaign?
On the other hand, there was Mike Huckabee:
We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names; being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie; you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant; you can’t sit out there with everyone else, there’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office; here’s where you sit on the bus.
… And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder, and resentment, and you have to just say, “I probably would, too. I probably would, too. And in fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”
M. J. Rosenberg notes the irony:
In other words, a conservative Republican understands that equating black anger with white racism is absurd, ugly and racist. But top Democrats are doing this every day, virtually every hour. Keep it up, Lanny, and company, and you will destroy what Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton built: a Democratic party that is, above all, the party of equal rights for all. You have to wonder. Are the black conservatives right? Do we really simply take the African-American vote so for granted that we can indulge in racism like the far right (but not mainstream) Republicans?
Ah… yes? She wants to win the nomination.
Rosenberg is unhappy:
Keeping the battle going up to the convention will accomplish nothing other than to guarantee the election of McCain and deepen the racial divide.
It is clear that the only issue driving down Obama’s numbers, and they haven’t been driven down much, is “concern” about his race. That’s it. In fact, the Times writes that only a new shocking revelation about Rev. Wright can derail Obama at this point. In other words, Obama can only lose the nomination by the political equivalent of a DWB. That’s what it’s called when a black guy is randomly stopped by the police: “Driving While Black.”
But Rosenberg can be farfetched:
Democrats are not going to deny Obama the nomination because of his skin color, especially not after that speech. We are not going to wave goodbye to one of the two most consistent and solid Democratic voting blocks. (Only African-Americans and Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic even in the worst Democratic years like ’72 with Mc Govern and ’84 with Mondale).
Oh, just watch. And maybe the Clinton folks paid those three at the State Department to see if they could dig up some dirt.
Probably not – it was probably the National Enquirer. Strange things happen when the moon is full.