The news media's treatment of Sandy Berger's removal of highly classified documents from the National Archives remarkably focuses on the timing of the leak, casting aspersions on the White House. It's not the first time Democrats have shown that manipulating their friends in the press is as easy as beating chimps at chess.
Here's what the remarkably incurious press, which has left its thinking caps at the Bien Pensant Bar and Grill, overlooks:
The leak was to the very same reporter Clinton spin doctor Lanny Davis used during the Clinton Administration. Who was Davis? None other than the public relations whiz kid who knew how to get bad news out of the way for Clinton at a time and place of his choosing, so the story could be spun away.
And a closer look at Davis's book, Truth to Tell: Tell it Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from My White House Education, sets out the road map. He told all about how he did it back then. And now with this flap, asked point blank if he leaked the story, Davis first punted, not denying it and noted only that had he known of this last October he'd have advised Berger to leak it then. In a later interview, he did deny being the source of the leak, though.
But the press hints breathlessly that since some people in the National Security Council and the White House legal office have been (necessarily) informed, they must be the sources of leaks.
Here are some other people who knew:
—Clinton repeatedly said he and his friends "all" knew about this for month and were "laughing" about it. If they "all" took this so lightly, why would they go to great lengths to keep it secret? And knowing Clinton, was this "all" a small group? Could no one in this group of "all" have had personal animus toward Berger ? Was there not a single one jockeying for his spot in the Kerry camp?
—People at the National Archives knew of this, too. How many? And how many did they divulge this to?
—The 9/11 Commission was informed. And based on its record, it's been as leaky as a wet brown bag.
—The Prosecutors Office (including support staff) knew.
—And most notably, Berger knew for almost a year. He is the single person who controlled absolutely when this was made public, wasn't he? He could have revealed this at any time.
Now, for the timing: Some interesting unexamined possibilities emerge here about why it was leaked when, too.
The 9/11 Commission completed its report under conditions that dictated that members couldn't question Berger about the theft of classified records they had requested of the Archives, without reopening the hearing. This, after it relied on his testimony. (This fact would have certainly affected his credibility.)
It was leaked after Clinton testified in Berger's and in yet another Clinton spin doctor's presence, Bruce Lindsey's. Those were the only two men we are certain knew of the investigation at that time.
It was leaked just before the Democratic Convention, when whatever press attention not directed at the Commission Report was likely to be directed there.
Now, analyze how the White House must have seen this: When would it have been more useful for the White House to leak this sordid tale? Answer: At almost any date after Berger was caught with the documents in his pants.
And there were plenty of possibilities:
—When 9/11 Commission members, Richard ben Veniste and Sen. Bob Kerrey were grandstanding.
—When former NSC aide Richard Clarke ('Against All Enemies") was massaging the truth to sell his book.
—When ex—ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV ("Politics of Truth") was lying to sell his book.
—When Berger himself was tap—dancing for the Commission —— which nevertheless noticed that on four occasions, beginning with the Millennium Documents — that he had restrained the Clinton Administration from destroying Osama bin Laden.
And there are others:
—When Clinton was testifying to the Commission.
—When Bush was testifying.
In short, it's a very long list. And more to the point, the story is not the timing. Such a claim could be made any time this story came out in this hotly contested election year. And if it wasn't a White House leak, the implications for the unity of the Kerry camp are hardly auspicious. If this crew takes office and handles national security matters as Berger did, the nation is at risk.
Which returns us to the issue at hand: it is the outrageous conduct of Sandy Berger, a man Kerry held in such high regard his name was floated as a likely Secretary of State nominee if Kerry wins.
If the story is about timing, the gullible purveyors of this spin have nevertheless failed to show why the leak came from the White House or what motive anyone there would have for leaking it at this time.
The real story is the self—destructive behavior of the press, which is willing to dump whatever shred of credibility it retains to help a man who is gullible enough to put his faith in Clarke and Wilson and Berger.
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC