Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A NATIONAL-SECURITY CRISIS FOR KERRY. For the second time in recent weeks, a respected national-security adviser to John Kerry has gone into total-meltdown mode. First it was Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who visited Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to buy yellowcake uranium. Wilson loudly and publicly complained that the White House had ignored his finding that there was nothing to the Iraq-Niger connection. He also denied that his wife, CIA covert officer Valerie Plame, whose identity was revealed in a Robert Novak column, had recommended him for the mission.   Thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee report and Wilson's own book, we now know that Wilson actually did stumble across evidence that Saddam Hussein's agents may have attempted to buy Nigerien yellowcake as recently as 1999. The committee also found that Plame recommended her husband in pretty strong terms. That makes it seem likely that whoever outed her to Novak was doing so not as political retribution, but to explain how it was that Wilson came to be chosen for a mission for which he was clearly unqualified.   Wilson defends himself in this Salon story. I'm unimpressed.   It gets worse. Now comes word that Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's national-security adviser, is under investigation for having removed classified documents from the National Archives in connection with his testimony before the 9/11 commission. "Sandy Berger Probed over Terror Memos" is the headline on this Fox News story. Check this out:
Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.
How stupid can you get?   I mention Fox because you know that Hannity, O'Reilly, et al. are going to beat this into the ground, right into the run-up for the Democratic National Convention.   What does this have to do with Kerry? Well, here is a recent press release touting Kerry's ties to Berger. And here is a Washington Times story on Wilson's role in the Kerry campaign, published months before that would have been controversial.   Josh Marshall is skeptical about the timing of the Berger story, noting that it's been the subject of a rather low-key investigation since last October. By Marshall's logic, the White House gets a two-fer by springing this now: diverting attention from the pending report of the 9/11 commission, which is likely to be highly critical of George W. Bush; and smearing Kerry by association just as he is about to accept his party's nomination.   Well, okay. And I'm certainly not naive about how these things work. But the fact is that the polls continue to show that national security is the area where Kerry is least trusted by voters. Yes, I know how mind-boggling that is. Bush may be the worst national-security president we've ever had, while Kerry is an experienced internationalist well-suited to navigating a post-9/11 world. But the country is scared, and at such times people tend to be more comfortable with a leader who blows things up and kills people, whatever the reason.   The fact is that Wilson, and now Berger, are dead weight for Kerry. He needs to throw them overboard before the FleetCenter curtain officially rises. In Berger's case, at least, it may not be fair. But when has that ever had anything to do with it?


Anonymous said...

Agreed. Berger is an idiot. Anyone who's been to the National Archives knows that even unclassified documents don't get removed from their reading room.

Democrats have enough trouble being taken seriously on national security questions. Berger's just made that crucial task very much harder for his candidate.

Anonymous said...

Did I say something about clownishness and megalomania the other day? Any way, it took the Wilson story a year to get (at least partially) debunked so let's not rush to judgment in this case either.

Although it is hard to envision a plausible scenario where Berger's actions would have been reasonable.