The lofty Sandy Berger – lawyer, king of the Clinton national security hill for four years – would have the everyday rest of us believe he is not a thief of sensitive documents from the National Archives but merely an irremediable klutz who has trouble getting it right every morning before breakfast about putting on the same-color socks.
That’s a lawyer, who presumably knew the consequences – the criminality – of removing classified documents. That’s a former national security adviser, who made several trips to the National Archives. That’s a high-level Clinton administration official, at the center of what that administration did and did not do (and contemplated) about terror, Saddam, etc. That’s an “unofficial” adviser, until Monday, to the Kerry campaign on security and foreign affairs.
These days there’s much going down.
There’s a war against terror, and now a highfalutin’ 9/11 report saying that, though the nation is “not safe,” it is safer under the current administration than the last.
There’s grisly decapitation.
There’s the debate about WMDs, with the former chief weapons inspector saying that, though no weapons have been found, it is clear Saddam was trying to buy or develop them – as just about everyone with his head screwed on right accurately believed. And it is not inconceivable he had them and destroyed them or hid them or moved them.
There’s the roiling debate about the intelligence community. There’s Abu Ghraib and the related matter of detainees at Guantanamo. There’s the Niger yellowcake flap about 16 words in President Bush’s 2003 state of the union address – “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Both a British and an American commission now say that the state of the union statement was not a Bushian over-reach at all, but was right. There are the related mini-flaps about an after-action Millennium report by Richard Clarke, and about who leaked what, and why, regarding former Iraq ambassador Joseph Wilson and yellowcake and his wife, Valerie Plame.
And there is, of course, the Kerry campaign’s constant linking of Vice President Cheney to his former employer, Halliburton, and what that company may or may not have duplicitously done.
Also going down, of course, is a presidential election in a country divided – deeply, closely – not only by party (Democrat/Republican) but also by ideology (liberal/conservative). It is shaping up to be an epic battle for control of the nation’s direction and control of its soul.
In elections, the economy usually proves decisive. The economy is surging; the fundamentals are strong. Advantage: Bush. But if the economy has a trump, it is national security. On national security, almost every poll shows overwhelming voter distrust of the Democrats, their capacities and will. Again, advantage: Bush.
Little wonder some try to make Bush out as a bumbling fool. Yet, as it turns out, the fool in the present instance is not Bush but Berger, Clinton hireling and Kerry adviser.
As with the Wilson-Plame-yellowcake affair, the controversy goes less to the truth in the incident than to who knew what and when, and who leaked what to whom, and when, and – darkly – why.