Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
Support independent journalism:
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Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[Suggested $5 donation]
[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Saturday, September 20, 2003
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay the other day, all aflutter over some Ted Kennedy remarks calling the war in Iraq a "fraud" that had been "made up in Texas":
- "It's disturbing that Democrats have spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Bush then they ever did at Saddam Hussein."
Well, not really, considering that Republicans spewed more hateful rhetoric at President Clinton than they ever did at Saddam Hussein.
I seem to recall that before 1989, Republicans were downright friendly with the man.
[Thanks to Digby for the link.]
The propaganda corps
Gene Lyons chimes in on the L. Jean Lewis matter:
- Both Banks’ letter and Lewis’ nationally televised comic opera swoon, it will be recalled, went unreported in The New York Times and Washington Post, the two newspapers most deeply committed to the scandal she helped them conjure out of thin air. It says a lot about today’s Republicans that Banks’ principled action in the face of the first Bush White House’s covert efforts to convene an "October surprise" probe of the Democratic nominee probably doomed his chances for a federal judgeship.
Documents showed that Lewis and like-minded RTC colleagues spent thousands of man-hours probing Madison Guaranty, ignoring Arkansas S&L collapses 10 and 20 times larger in their futile quest. But if getting Whitewater upside-down disqualified a person from employment, half of official Washington and most of the city’s name-brand journalists would be out of work.
Judging by the utter lack of press interest in her hiring, Lyons is clearly right.
Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler makes a similar point:
- Just how far in the bag is your "press corps?" At last, we get a small-bore chance to find out. Newsweek reports that L. Jean Lewis has been named chief of staff of the Defense Department's inspector-general office; this is one of the most amazing news reports of the year. Gene Lyons' column gives you the background, although we recommend Lyons' Fools for Scandal for the early account of Lewis' clowning. In a rational world, one would expect a "press corps" to jump when a circus clown is named to such a high position. But as Lyons explains, the press corps managed to look away when Lewis engaged in her first round of clowning (and when she baldly lied to the Congress). The question is obvious: Will the press discuss Lewis' bizarre history with her ascension to this position? Or is the corps so far in the bag that even this remarkable event will be ignored? Lewis is a crackpot and clown. But then, many in the press may say, "Hail to thee, kindred spirit."
Speaking of propagandists, also worth adding to the L. Jean Lewis files is this rather hilarious version of events from a 2000 Carl Limbacher piece in NewsMax:
- Democrats on the Senate Whitewater Committee subpoenaed all Lewis' relevant written correspondence, some of which she had stored on computer disks. Also on those same disks: private letters that had nothing to do with her investigation.
Lewis had simply deleted the personal mail and handed the disk over to Democrat staffers. Just like Vice President Gore, she presumed that her deleted mail was "lost forever."
But thanks to White House ingenuity, it turned out she presumed wrong.
When it came time to cross-examine Lewis in televised hearings, chief Democratic Whitewater counsel Richard BenVeniste hit the RTC prober with embarrassing revelations gleaned from private letters that had nothing whatsoever to do with Whitewater.
Some of the information was about her teen-age stepson, who was humiliated before the world in an attempt to discredit Lewis. Other tidbits revealed that Lewis had a political dislike for Bill Clinton even before she began looking into Whitewater - and had once even considered marketing a line of anti-Clinton T-shirts.
Suddenly the investigator with a spotless record and a personnel file folder full of commendations was being smeared as a "Clinton-hater" and a "gold digger" whose testimony was so hopelessly tainted by bias that it could not be taken seriously.
Confronted with the embarrassing information, a stunned and shaken Lewis asked BenVeniste how he managed to get his hands on her deleted personal correspondence. His reply: "I don't know how they do these things, but I'm told they can do it."
Whitewater Committee Democrats later explained that they had hired several computer experts to examine Lewis' files. The technicians were able to "reverse delete" the disks and voila: The RTC investigator's private correspondence had magically appeared.
Lewis, who suffered from high blood pressure, was so rattled by the invasion of privacy that she collapsed right there at the witness table and had to be taken to a doctor.
What's missing from this account, of course, is the content of those e-mails, which in fact proved beyond a doubt that Lewis had perjured herself regarding her testimony about her attempts to push the criminal referral against the Clintons for their Whitewater dealings with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office. It also established that she had fantasies about "changing history" and was driven by extreme partisanship, contrary to her assertions in testimony.
Limbacher, ever the chorus swell, thus adds this palpably false characterization of things:
- Though nothing Clinton's allies had unearthed about Lewis compromised her testimony or the evidence she presented in any way ...
The Limbacher piece is rotten to the core, of course, but the information about the e-mail revelations is a suggestive detail. If the heat starts coming down on the Office of Inspector General's staff at DoD, someone might want to keep an eye out for smashed disk drives in the dumpster out back (figuratively speaking).
Not that it appears such a thing will ever come to pass.
The wolf in the henhouse
Monday, September 15, 2003
I realize it may seem like an overstatement to say, as I have, that L. Jean Lewis' appointment has the potential to be a "devastating" scandal for the Bush administration.
My reasons for saying that go well beyond the outrage inspired by the news of Lewis' appointment as chief of staff of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense. It has everything to do with the serious questions raised by her elevation to that position, the chief of which I already noted:
- Why was someone with Lewis' scant qualifications -- indeed, whose record of ethical behavior is, to put it kindly, extraordinarily questionable -- given a position calling not only for the highest level of competence, but also a spotless record of integrity?
First: It's important to remember just what Lewis' position is. As Newsweek reported:
- Lewis has been given a $118,000-a-year job as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department’s inspector general office. With 1,240 employees and a budget of $160 million, this office is the largest of its kind in the government. It investigates fraud and audits Pentagon contracts, including the billions of dollars being awarded in Iraq to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel.
The Office of the Inspector General is not merely supposed to be nonpartisan: It is supposed to be a model of integrity and probity. Its own mission statement -- a document titled "Mission/Vision/Values" [PDF file], states the following:
- Core Values:
-- Integrity & Efficiency
Considering L. Jean Lewis' record in the Resolution Trust Corporation -- where she ran a T-shirt marketing scheme out of her office; secretly (and illegally) tape-recorded a fellow RTC employee; improperly disclosed confidential documents; and kept confidential documents in her home, all of which are likely violations of federal and state laws -- as well as her clearly perjurous testimony before Congress, there should be no question about whether Lewis should even be allowed near this staff.
Some of the more colorful instances of her lying before Congress were her claims that the tape recorder "turned itself on" and that her use of the word "BITCH" on the T-shirts she sold (with the subscript, "Bubba, I'm Taking Charge, Hillary") were "in no way intended to denigrate the First Lady". But the most serious instances of unmistakable perjury were her assertions that she had not made any pre-election attempts to pressure the FBI and U.S. Attorney about her shabby criminal referrals for the Clintons in the Whitewater matter, which were directly contradicted by testimony from the FBI (who had documented the contacts, of course) and several other law-enforcement officials.
It should be clear that any normative candidates for top staffing positions at any Inspector General's office should be persons with spotless records and unquestionable reputations for professionalism, ethical behavior and personal integrity. That someone like L. Jean Lewis even made it past the door raises serious questions about just what standards were used. This goes well beyond mere cronyism.
Second: At no point in her career as a low-level RTC investigator did Lewis exhibit any level of managerial capability. Nowhere in her resume is there even an inkling that she possesses any personnel-management skills. What in God's name could have qualified her to, out of the blue, rise through the ranks to suddenly oversee a staff of 1,240 people?
The only real quality that L. Jean Lewis exhibited at the RTC was her naked, almost psychotic eagerness to participate in partisan skulduggery. In this sense she was a classic Nixon-style dirty trickster -- not surprising, since many of the other figures in the Whitewater and impeachment scandals, such as Lucianne Goldberg, had bona fide ties to the old Nixon CREEP team. It was part and parcel of the anti-Clinton milieu.
Why would someone like Lewis be placed in such a sensitive position -- overseeing the audits of defense contractors in Iraq and elsewhere, particularly when some of these contractors, notably Halliburton, have significant ties to the Bush administration?
Some writers (including Greg Greene, who runs a generally smart blog), have suggested that perhaps Lewis was put in place to dig up dirt on Wesley Clark. Count me among the skeptics of this theory. Lewis in fact has been in place in the position since late last year, well before a Clark candidacy could have been anticipated. And the fact was that she didn't really dig up anything on the Clintons; what she proved skilled at was leaking trumped-up claims to the press and ginning up the juices for Clinton-hating conspiracy theorists. In other words, she is more skilled at manipulating the bureaucracy for political ends than she is at any kind of serious investigation or dirt-digging.
The more serious question raised by Lewis' appointment is this: Exactly what is going on in the DoD Inspector General's office? Are auditors being allowed to perform their duties free of partisan taint or political pressure? Is their work or effectiveness at uncovering fraud being suppressed or manipulated? Lewis' past standards of professionalism and partisanship would suggest that these kinds of problems are more than likely to recur in her new role.
That, in turn, puts the spotlight on the man who hired her.
Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz
A quick glance at Schmitz's bio reveals nothing immediately amiss. Unlike Lewis, he is obviously eminently and fully qualified to hold the job. His resume shows a mostly admirable record of achievement.
However, there are two, closely related items in his bio that raise red flags: His close association with Edwin Meese, and his leadership role in the Federalist Society.
Meese too is a key Federalist figure. And this far-right organization, many of you may recall, played a significant role in both the impeachment of Bill Clinton and Whitewater matters, and continues to hold significant sway within the administration -- after all, the Bush White House officially discarded the longtime role of the American Bar Association in providing advice in selecting federal judges and replaced it with the Federalist Society. And Bush's solicitor general, of course, is the noted Federalist Society figure, Ted Olson.
Moreover, the Federalist Society continues to hold considerable influence on the course of the nation's war against Iraq, as Salon's Michelle Goldberg explained in her article "Above the Law":
- Many of George Bush's legal advisors, including Attorney General John Ashcroft and Solicitor General Ted Olson, are members of the Federalist Society, which argued in a white paper that the War Powers Act is "unnecessary, unconstitutional, and shameful." Another member is White House counsel Tim Flanigan, who is largely responsible for articulating the legal arguments buttressing Bush's Iraq policy. According to the Village Voice, the Federalist Society gave Flanigan $700,000 to write a biography of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.
The group didn't return calls asking for comment, but its past pronouncements offer a telling clue to understanding the legal thinking underlying Bush's Iraq plans. A Federalist Society white paper about the War Powers Act calls the congressional power to declare war "a constitutional anachronism," and makes the rather stunning argument that Congress only has a role to play if the country is at peace and wishes to wage "an offensive (or what we would today call an aggressive) war."
Since that kind of war is outlawed by the world community, the white paper argues, the issue is moot. That same paper argues that the Act's premise of rectifying the mistakes of Vietnam is fallacious, since "by the end of 1972 the United States and South Vietnam essentially had the war won," and had America not fought in Vietnam, "we might well have lost the Cold War."
"This group of White House Federalist Society lawyers that is telling Bush he already has the authority to attack Iraq is the same group of White House Federalist Society lawyers that told him he could go right ahead and set up his [military tribunal] kangaroo court system," says Francis Boyle, an international law specialist at the University of Illinois College of Law at Champaign. "This is kangaroo constitutional law that we're seeing in operation here. What we're seeing here is a gang of ideologically driven lawyers who are getting the president and the country into serious legal trouble."
Schmitz's ideological past also raises other red flags. Before being appointed to the post by Bush, he was practicing law as a partner with Patton Briggs. One of his more noteworthy cases involved representing the racist anti-immigrant group U.S. English in its efforts to pass an English-only law in Utah (it passed handily).
There has been nothing in Schmitz's actions (or inactions) in office so far that necessarily raises red flags. However, some of them at least raise questions:
-- Whatever became of the IG's investigation into former Army Secretary Thomas White's travel? If it went nowhere, why?
-- What role did Schmitz have in the facilitating the DoD geniuses who came up with the ill-fated (even conservatives called it "Orwellian") Information Awareness Office?
-- Finally, did the Inspector General ever seriously pursue the seemingly legitimate claims of the (rabidly anti-Turkish) American Hellenic Institute in September 2002 -- that the participation of Richard Perle and Douglas Feith in any kind of DoD dealings with the government of Turkey represented a gross conflict of interest? (This question is particularly germane right now, since we are currently negotiating with Turkey over the use of its troops in Iraq.)
Even seemingly normal bureaucratic reshuffling such as Schmitz's recently completed reorganization of his offices should come under scrutiny. Is this another case of camouflaged "deregulation" in which audit procedures and standards are altered in a way that makes abuse and fraud by DoD contractors more likely to be overlooked?
These questions might never have arisen had Schmitz not hired L. Jean Lewis. But that stunning decision raises serious questions about his judgment and the standards of professionalism and nonpartisanship practiced by his office.
Nothing short of a congressional investigation, frankly, will settle the issue in a way that reassures the public that this office is being run as it should. As Joe Conason suggests, Democrats in Congress should be raising holy hell about it.
(On the other hand, Joe's partner in crime, Gene Lyons, doubts that any investigation would ever emerge from Congress: "Fat chance," he tells me via e-mail. "The GOP Congress wouldn't investigate the Bush admin if they caught Rove in one of those sting ops trying to lure a seventh grader to hot pillow motel." Gene's probably right, but there's always the off-chance that Democrats at least are growing spines, and can raise a stink about it.)
With that in mind, let me urge everyone reading these posts to take the time today to contact the Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who have oversight on these issues. Please write to them and urge them to demand an investigation into Lewis' grossly improper hiring. (I always urge people to write their own original letters, because spam letters suck; but please feel free to use any of the information contained in any of my posts.) Be especially certain to write them if you are from their home states.
Carl Levin, Michigan
Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts
Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia
Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut
Jack Reed, Rhode Island
Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii
Bill Nelson, Florida
E. Benjamin Nelson, Nebraska
Mark Dayton, Minnesota
Evan Bayh, Indiana
Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York (wonder if she's interested?)
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Though I don't believe in urging my readers to waste their time, there are also two senators on the Republican side of the aisle who may well respond if they hear from you:
John McCain, Arizona
Susan M. Collins, Maine
In the final analysis, I'd have to say I did overstate things by suggesting that the Lewis hiring in fact will become a scandal. But by God, it should.
L. Jean Lewis: Back to the source
In discussing L. Jean Lewis, I've been somewhat remiss in mentioning the work of Gene Lyons, whose reportage is responsible for a lot of what we know about the woman. Atrios cites Lyons' seminal work, Fools for Scandal, but there's quite a bit else out there. Of special note is some of Gene's work for Salon:
See some evil, hear some evil
- Lewis was supposed to be Whitewater's Joan of Arc. A low-level investigator [emphasis mine] for the Resolution Trust Corporation in Kansas City, Mo., Lewis took it upon herself during the 1992 election campaign to file "criminal referrals" with the FBI and the U.S. attorney in Little Rock listing both Bill and Hillary Clinton as potential suspects in the collapse of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan. Thanks to reporter Mollie Dickinson's recent story in Salon, we now know that sworn depositions from the Senate Whitewater committee prove that the Bush White House was actively involved in attempts to force the Justice Department to take action on those referrals in time to affect the November election.
So was Lewis herself. FBI agents and federal prosecutors who testified before Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's committee said that Lewis had made dramatic pronouncements to them about altering the course of history, prompting them to suspect her motives. The form and content of Lewis' criminal referrals, moreover, struck every Justice Department official who examined them as factually deficient and legally incompetent. Then-Attorney General William Barr got nowhere in his attempts to push them through the federal bureaucracy. Little Rock U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks, a Reagan appointee, wrote a blunt letter refusing to be a party to what he viewed as a politically inspired smear.
In sworn testimony before both House and Senate Whitewater committees, Lewis denied making any pre-election attempts to pressure the FBI and U.S. attorney, claiming she'd had no conversations with anybody about her criminal referrals until December 1992. But FBI agents testified otherwise, and had contemporaneous records to support them. In fact, the records show, Lewis had hounded them repeatedly. Within a week of her initial September 1992 referral, for example, Lewis left a taunting message for FBI Special Agent Steve Irons at his Little Rock office. "Have I turned into a local pariah," Lewis asked, "just because I wrote one referral with high-profile names, or do you intend on calling me back before Christmas, Steven?" A few days later, she showed up in Irons' office in person to urge him onward. The agent testified that her partisanship had the opposite effect.
Lewis had also made a secret, and potentially illegal, tape recording of a meeting with an RTC colleague named April Breslaw, then testified inaccurately as to the import of their conversations. She blamed the inadvertent recording on a worn-out cassette recorder that had spontaneously activated itself without her intervention. Confronted with inconsistencies in her testimony by Democratic counsel Richard Ben-Veniste, Lewis appeared to faint and had to be assisted from Senate chambers, never to return (a startling development not reported by either the New York Times or the Washington Post). Investigators subsequently found evidence that Lewis had, in fact, bought a spanking new tape recorder only days before her meeting with Breslaw. They passed it and a copy of her "accidental" tape recording along to Starr's office for analysis.
At the time Starr took over the independent counsel's job in August 1994, Lewis was also being investigated by the RTC's inspector general for the above infractions as well as several others -- including illegal leaks of confidential financial records to the press and using her government office to market a line of "Presidential BITCH" T-Shirts and coffee mugs mocking the first lady. One of Starr's first actions as independent counsel was to assume control of that investigation. Nothing has been heard from the independent counsel's office regarding L. Jean Lewis since that day. Perhaps it is time for the bulldog scandal hunters in the press corps to ask Starr why that is.
Gene puts this into the broader context of the press' behavior in Whitewater in another piece:
The New York Times: All the facts that are fit to omit
- Thousands of viewers watching the hearings live on C-SPAN witnessed this amazing spectacle, but Labaton's story in the next day's Times contained not one word about the incident. Not then, nor since. But a Times editorial a few days after Lewis' appearance referred to her, apparently without irony, as the Senate Whitewater hearings' "star witness."
Interestingly, the Washington Post's "Clinton scandals" ace correspondent, Susan Schmidt, also failed to report Lewis' dramatic swoon -- much as Schmidt saw fit earlier this week to leave out exculpatory information from her "exclusive" story about a former Secret Service agent who said he'd seen Monica Lewinsky enter the Oval Office alone in the fall of 1995 carrying a stack of documents. Omitted from Schmidt's story was what the Secret Service agent, Lewis Fox, had earlier told the Observer-Reporter of Waynesboro, Pa., that the constant bustle around the president's office, not to mention the Oval Office's open windows, made the notion of a sexual relationship there all but impossible to imagine. Fox's lawyer has since told reporters his client had no evidence Clinton and Lewinsky were ever alone. Like several putative "witnesses" who've surfaced in the Washington Post and elsewhere over recent weeks, Fox had seen no evidence of impropriety between the president and the intern. Absent Schmidt's tactical omission, there would seem no "story" at all.
Also worth adding to the list is this 1996 piece in The Nation by Joe Conason and Murray Waas, which examines Ken Starr's legal conflict of interest in his hardball dealings with the RTC:
Troubled Whitewater: A secret conflict calls Kenneth Starr's role as special prosecutor into question
- The first reported action taken by Starr after he replaced Fiske was to subpoena records from the R.T.C. regarding its treatment of L. Jean Lewis and two of her fellow investigators in the agency's Kansas City office who also had worked on the Whitewater matter. Only ten days after Starr's appointment, the three R.T.C. investigators had been placed on a two-week administrative leave by the agency's top officials as punishment for what was described as "noncompliance with R.T.C. policy and procedures." Lewis had, among other things, secretly taped a conversation with another R.T.C. official regarding Whitewater, and then provided that tape to Republicans in Congress, which was revealed at a public hearing. Upon learning of the suspensions, Republicans charged that Lewis and the others were being punished by Clinton appointees because they had vigorously pursued Whitewater leads and had provided information to those on the Hill who were also looking into Whitewater.
Within a week after the temporary R.T.C. action against Lewis and the others was announced, Starr requested that the Whitewater grand jury in Washington issue subpoenas to the R.T.C. for all documents relating to their suspension. The purpose of the subpoenas, according to newspaper reports at the time, was to determine whether R.T.C. or other federal officials had attempted to obstruct justice by intimidating Lewis and her colleagues.
That August 24, R.T.C. general counsel Ellen Kulka faxed a letter to Starr offering her agency's full cooperation with his efforts, including any matters involving the Kansas City office. "We are very willing to arrange that they respond to any request you make of them to provide information and to travel upon your request at R.T.C. expense to meet with you or your staff," Kulka wrote. She also offered to assign the three investigators to work with Starr. Kulka's letter was copied to acting R.T.C. chief John Ryan; the agency's deputy general counsel, Andrew Tomback; and its assisant general counsel, Thomas Hindes.
Nearly a year later, when Tomback testified before the House Banking Committee about the R.T.C.'s role in Whitewater, he said that Starr had never responded in writing to Kulka, although a telephone call was received from a Starr aide declining the help of Lewis and her colleagues. On August 9, 1995, Starr explained why: It was, he wrote, "for the sole reason that the administrative leave of these three employees was, and remains, under active investigation."
From perjury to election theft
Sunday, September 14, 2003
L. Jean Lewis' greatest hits, continued:
A little googling reveals, first, a nice rundown of L. Jean Lewis' serial perjury.
Next, there's this fine bit of "identity politics", from that ever-so-mainstream publication, WorldNetDaily, in which Ms. Lewis waxes wroth at the mere appearance of black people on the scene at the Florida 2000 election debacle. Note the classic reference to minorities as a disease (vermin is the other usual giveaway for closet racists):
- As if the behavior initiated in Florida by the Democrats was not yet sufficiently mean-spirited, Jesse Jackson and his minions have now arrived on the scene like malignant cancer cells attracted to a growing tumor. His appetite for inciting political frenzy through race-baiting, and pitting rights of special interest and minority groups against those of the general populace is at startling odds with his clerical title. His current efforts have successfully produced a breath-taking deterioration within an already untenable situation. The fact that the Democrats have turned a blind eye to his unruly activities is upsetting; that they would discreetly condone and nurture such behavior is appalling.
To have them openly encourage rumors of civil rights violations and propagate deliberate unrest is bordering on sedition. Have they no concern about the impact of force-feeding this behavior down the throat of the American public? Are we shortly to be poised on the brink of a constitutional crisis with legal endgames that will defy all logic? America must be allowed to emerge from this episode with some remaining vestige of political dignity. The voters, not the courts or Clinton-appointed judges, should decide this election, and the voters have already spoken.
Well, we've been hearing all about how liberals are "seditious" these days (haven't we, Ms. Coulter), so perhaps Lewis' screed deserves some credit for its prescience. Of course, if raising questions about civil-rights violations in the Florida debacle means one is being treasonous, then evidently the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the NAACP (not to mention all the people who testified at their hearings) were guilty of sedition as well. I'm sure Ms. Lewis wouldn't have it any other way.
Speaking of which, did anyone happen to notice that Ms. Lewis failed to evince any concern for the effect on the election by such groups as Don Black's white-supremacist Stormfront troops (who in fact broke up one of Jackson's appearances) insofar as they might represent "race baiting" or "propagate civil unrest"?
Is anyone surprised?
The root of scandal
Atrios has been posting about L. Jean Lewis today. This is a potentially devastating scandal for the Bush administration, because Lewis' appointment raises the specter of a serious coverup.
The important point is this, from the Newsweek story on her appointment:
- ALTHOUGH THERE’S BEEN no public announcement of her return to government, Lewis has been given a $118,000-a-year job as chief of staff in the traditionally nonpartisan Defense Department’s inspector general office. With 1,240 employees and a budget of $160 million, this office is the largest of its kind in the government. It investigates fraud and audits Pentagon contracts, including the billions of dollars being awarded in Iraq to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel.
Of course, there are many, many questions about the propriety of Lewis' appointment. As the story goes on to point out, Lewis' behavior as an RTC investigator was not only highly partisan, but riddled with illegal behavior.
This fact was raised by Mollie Dickenson in Salon back in 1998, with this still-definitive piece:
- "Starr Chamber: The deep and twisted roots of Kenneth Starr's Clinton inquisition stretch back to the dark corners of the 1992 presidential campaign.
The relevant material on Lewis is on the second page:
- On Sept. 2, 1992, Lewis and Iorio sent a criminal referral to Charles Banks, the Republican-appointed U.S. attorney in Little Rock, in which she named Bill and Hillary Clinton as "possible witnesses" to and "potential beneficiaries" of criminal wrongdoing in the failure of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. In violation of RTC policy, she began calling Banks and Irons. Irons testified that she left numerous messages asking "what the FBI was doing with the referral." Irons thought her calls were inappropriate and "refused to give her status reports." In further violation of RTC policy, Lewis responded by traveling from Kansas City to Little Rock on Sept. 18, 1992, and dropping in on Irons unannounced to press her case. Little Rock FBI agents said they were "concerned about Lewis' objectivity and overall professionalism." Lewis told the FBI that "her boss, Richard Iorio, kept asking her to try to find out what it [the FBI] was doing."
Lewis' numerous phone calls to U.S Attorney Banks' office also struck him as "unusual. I saw no need for the sense of urgency except for who the witnesses were [the Clintons] ... so it caused me to be very circumspect about it." The calls "came between early September and Oct. 16," said Banks. Assistant U.S. Attorney Floyd Mac Dodson recalled that Lewis made these calls "between the first of September and probably November, around election time ... I got the impression she thought I was not moving fast enough."
Lewis later swore under oath that she hadn't contacted the FBI or Banks' office until after the election, in December 1992 -- a statement that was refuted by the testimony and contemporaneous notes of Irons, Banks and numerous other federal law enforcement officials.
It's always worth remembering that the Whitewater case was itself built on perjured testimony. And that wasn't Lewis' only bit of perjury:
- A far more serious threat to Republican plans occurred in July when the RTC finally drew up charges against Lewis and Iorio for an agency investigation, among them improper disclosure of confidential documents, secretly taping RTC employees (Lewis said the recorder "turned itself on"), keeping confidential documents at home and using government equipment for personal gain.
But then Kenneth Starr intervened:
On Aug. 22, in his first official act, Starr subpoenaed the RTC's records on Lewis. On Sept. 27, he ordered the RTC to suspend its investigation of her and instead impaneled a grand jury to investigate those at the RTC who were investigating Lewis. Lewis and Iorio were reinstated at the RTC, and testified against the Clintons in November l995 Senate hearings.
In Lewis' 1995 appearance before the Senate Whitewater committee, she was confronted with her "lying bastard" letter, and then was exposed as having lied about surreptitiously tape recording the RTC lawyer. Lewis collapsed into tears, was briefly hospitalized and has since dropped from sight. Starr continues to protect her and the Bush administration by keeping under wraps the RTC investigation into her activities.
Lewis remained under wraps until now. Clearly, there is abundant evidence that Lewis committed all these crimes. Instead, she has faced no consequences.
The really germane question is this: How exactly did L. Jean Lewis rise suddenly from the ranks of minor RTC investigator to the overseer of a massive Defense Department bureau? What exactly were her qualifications? The ones she put on display for the RTC: Namely, ginning up scandals against Democrats, and covering up scandals against Republicans.
Where there is smoke, there is fire. If I were a Beltway reporter, I know I would be immediately sniffing around Lewis' department to figure just what kind of fraud vis a vis corporate dealings in Iraq she may now be in charge of covering up. Are there any real journalists left there?
(Some more reading on L. Jean Lewis: From The Consortium and American Review. Of course, be sure to also check out Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, pp. 176-178, and 194-197.)