Jewish World Review July 26, 2004 / 8 Menachem-Av, 5764
Sandy Berger's classified wardrobe
Sandy Berger, Clinton-era national security adviser and "informal" adviser on the same to Sen. John Kerry, is under investigation for cramming his khakis with classified memos and taking them out of the National Archives. Hey, it's happened to us all. You have an orange for lunch, your hands get sticky. Things happen, and besides, none of the memos could possibly have cast the Clinton team in a bad light, of course.
But let's play everyone's favorite game, "What If He Was a Republican?" Imagine Dick Cheney caught filling his socks with documents on pre-Sept. 11 security procedures. Imagine a hidden camera snapping shots of Condi Rice slipping secret memos into her foundation garments. We wouldn't be hearing about impeachment, we'd be debating the probity of rolling a guillotine toward the White House, and whether the heads should be arranged alphabetically on the fence spikes, or by seniority.
So what do we do with a guy who not only treats his trousers as a diplomatic pouch but was national security adviser during the years when al-Qaida feasted on American laziness?
Cue predictable response: "It's not like Berger lied and we went to war and people died for nothing and we're not safer and what about Iran? Huh?" Subject changed, mission accomplished.
But. Back up. After Sept. 11, you might recall, the country didn't blame President Clinton for inaction, or for insufficiently pasting al-Qaida. The general consensus gave him a pass, because everyone was too busy having fun in the '90s to care much about the hairy, scary nut cases who wanted us dead. People gave the Clinton team a pass. The clock was reset at ground zero, and we thought we'd move forward from there. But that was before the "BUSH KNEW" headlines. Before the Sept. 11 commission's elevation of Dick Clarke and others who sought to blame Bush, not Clinton. It became political again.
Fine. That's how they want it, that's how it'll go. So, Sen. Kerry: Did your "informal" adviser tell you what was in the memos? Did he tell you he'd taken them? Did you know about the investigation before it was leaked, and did you keep Berger on as an "informal" adviser anyway?
What did you know, and when did you know it?
Ah, the magic invocation, the recipe for Washington's favorite dish: piping hot scandal. Expect Bergergate splashed all over your front page, making headlines for weeks to come! Providing you live in an alternate dimension, of course, a place where the press isn't actively pulling for Kerry, that is.
Here on Earth? A non-story by August. It's not important.
C'mon, 'fess up: Wouldn't you rather look at John Edwards' hair for four years than Dick Cheney's? All right, then.
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© 2003, James Lileks