So here's the rule. You never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don't. Do. It.And to reinforce that strategic recommendation, here’s what commenter Alice Marshall said on Not Larry Sabato in regard to one of JC Wilmore’s more absurd attacks on Hillary Clinton:
Whatever you think of HRC, it is critical not to resurrect of GOP smears.I may have had my political differences in the past with Alice Marshall, but she’s actually right about this. And so is Jane Hamsher.
Whoever we nominate will be subject to the GOP smear machine, in order to prevail we must defeat the entire smear machine. There fore we have to take on these lies whether or not our candidate is on the receiving end of these smears. HRC has many supporters, Ben is only one.
Yet, serving as the water boy for the right wing is exactly what J.C. Wilmore seems to be doing here. And his stupid excuse is that it's because Ben Tribbett broke the truce between the Clinton and Obama camps. As if Ben is actually a highly placed operative in the Clinton campaign rather than an independent blogger whose campaign ties are to local Northern Virginia races not national political campaigns. The equivalent would be me trashing Obama and repeating right wing lies about his attending a madrassa just because J.C. made me angry. I’d rather face a firing squad than engage in that kind of nonsense just to trash a Democratic candidate.
Let me make something very clear. I am not criticizing Wilmore for supporting Obama or for being critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton. I actually agree with him that there should be a conversation about Hillary Clinton’s record, her competence, and her personal characteristics as well as her stands on policy. I’m all for that.
I think we need the same critical examination of Obama. And that can be said for John Edwards or any candidate. Furthermore, I would never, never attack J.C. for making a spirited defense of Barack Obama, or for his equally spirited hits on an Obama opponent. As long as the attacks and the criticism are truly fair, I’d be the first to defend him. But these are not fair attacks at all. And they do qualify as a right wing hammer.
In fact, they are the biased talking points of the Clinton's enemies going back to the early 1990s. And they were slanted and had little merit back then and there’s even less merit in dragging them up now.
What I’m referring to is J.C’s unfortunate decision to dredge up Travelgate, the incident where the Clinton administration fired Billy Dale, the director of the White House Travel Office and the rest of his staff.
Here’s the broad outline, according to Wikipedia:
According to the White House, in early 1993 the incoming Clinton administration looked at an audit by KPMG Peat Marwick which discovered that Dale kept an off-book ledger, had $18,000 of unaccounted-for checks, and generally chaotic office records. White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and the White House counsels thus decided to fire the Travel Office staff and reorganize it. The actual terminations were done on May 19, 1993 by White House director of administration David Watkins. There was also a feeling among the White House and its supporters that the Travel Office had never been investigated by the media due to its close relationship with press corps members and the plush accommodations it afforded them.(Congress would later discover that in October 1988 a whistleblower within the Travel Office had alleged financial improprieties; the Reagan White House counsel looked into it but took no action.At the time, the story was widely covered by the press, and most of the coverage vilified the Clintons and lauded the White House travel office staff. In fact the press portrayed the staff, and especially Dale, as the innocent victims of the newly elected Clinton’s cronyism. The story was painted as an attempt by the Clintons to replace honest, hardworking public servants with their own allies in order to get the lucrative business contracts. But was it true?
Republicans and other critics saw the events differently. They alleged that friends of President Bill Clinton, including his third cousin Catherine Cornelius, had sought the firings in order to get the business for themselves. Dale and his staff had been replaced with Little Rock, Arkansas-based World Wide Travel, a company with a substantial reputation in the industry but with several ties to the Clintons. In addition, Hollywood producer and Inauguration chairman Harry Thomason, a friend of both Clintons, and his business partner, Darnell Martens, were looking to get their air charter company, TRM, the White House business in place of Airline of the Americas.
Not according to one of their fellow journalists, Joe Conasson, who wrote this:
A federal office is discovered handing out lucrative, no-bid deals to private contractors over a period of many years, without so much as a written contract. Auditors from a major accounting firm find that the office did not keep adequate records for many of its transactions, which ran into millions of dollars annually. Eventually, it comes out that the director of the office has secretly funneled more than $50,000 into his personal checking account. Later still, it is revealed that when an anonymous staff whistleblower wrote a letter to the General Accounting Office years earlier, alleging favors from contractors and other improprieties, his complaint was brushed aside by the White House counsel -- even though the office director admitted accepting contractor gifts, which legal experts say may have been a violation of federal law.Here is more about Billy Dale, that famously put upon martyr in this sad, sordid tale. Here’s his take on competitive bidding for contracts in the travel office, taken from the above cited Conasson piece.
But because the people who ran the office had catered faithfully to the needs and desires of the White House press, most of this is ignored by the media. Instead, when the implicated director is fired and eventually prosecuted by the Justice Department, he becomes a victimized hero in the national media, and the officials who fired him become the villains.
Sounds pretty unlikely, doesn't it? Not to anyone who has paid close attention to the White House Travel Office affair, or "Travelgate" as it has been dubbed by scandal-promoting pundits. In recent months, the 1993 firing of seven longtime employees of the travel office, which handles travel arrangements for reporters and television crews covering the president, has been revisited in congressional hearings, in countless news articles, and on dozens of television and radio programs. The burden of that coverage has focused on the role of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is alleged to have pressured White House lawyers into dismissing the travel office staff and bringing in the FBI to investigate them, so that friends of the First Family could enjoy the office's patronage spoils.
More importantly, what gets largely left out of this complicated story is an exploration of why the FBI -- and for that matter, the press -- should have been looking into the operations of the travel office in the first place. According to the 1993 White House report, the Clinton foray against it began after Dale told an aviation broker and friend of Clinton pal Harry Thomason that "no combination of price or service" could convince him to accept a bid from any air charter firm other than the one he'd used for years. Most Washington journalists have always tended to regard competitive bidding as an essential symbol of honest government -- except when it came to the White House travel office. The GAO suggests that as many as fourteen airlines would have been interested in bidding for the press corps business.Now, ask yourself, is this the type of person that you would want to champion just to tear down Hillary Clinton? Not if you have any intellectual honesty or moral compass. Yet that’s the incident JC, a lawyer who should know better, decided to slime Hillary with.
The reasons behind Dale's lack of interest in competition ought to have raised some famous eyebrows. Although he insisted that bidding would have hampered the efficiency of his operation, congressional investigators learned last fall of an October 1988 letter from a whistleblower that suggested other, less uplifting motives for his reluctance. That letter, sent to the GAO and forwarded to the Reagan White House counsel, included allegations of such favors from airline contractors as free tickets to sporting events, fishing trips, and other gifts. When questioned about this by White House security officials in early 1989, according to documents unearthed by congressional investigators, Dale admitted that he had received contractor gifts regularly. He even said he had sometimes passed the tickets on to his supervisors in the White House Office of Administration. At the very least this was a violation of federal rules, possibly a violation of federal law. Yet neither the Reagan nor the Bush administration seriously pursued the matter, despite Dale's intriguing comment to the White House security staff that he knew the identity of the whistleblower and was "seriously considering" firing him.
When this episode was revealed last November, only columnist Jack Anderson took any notice and reported it.
Evidence that Dale ran his fiefdom without regard for the most basic financial safeguards has also gotten scant attention. His acquittal on federal embezzlement charges seems to have immunized him from any real scrutiny by his old friends in the press. The thirteen-page report prepared by KPMG Peat Marwick, the auditors brought in by Clinton White House officials in May 1993 to examine Dale's books, would have made instructive reading, but few of its findings (such as $18,000 in missing petty cash) were reported in any detail. The report found that there was "no general ledger, or cash receipts/disbursements journal," that "no copies of bills to customers/press are on file," that there was, in short, a startling shortage of documents validating the business procedures followed by Dale. Such disorder in any other federal office would have been deemed scandalous indeed by most Washington journalists, but not in the travel office. Last January 24, when an enterprising Associated Press reporter called the Peat Marwick executive who oversaw the travel office audit, to ask about Republican assertions that the firm was backing off its conclusions, the executive reiterated that Dale probably should have been fired. But electronic database searches show that the AP account of the Peat Marwick man's rebuttal was not widely picked up.
When Dale was confronted during the audit about some of the missing petty cash, he produced nearly $2,800 in cash the following day, which he claimed to have found in an envelope in his desk. (Curiously, he had withdrawn $2,500 in cash from a personal account the same day the auditors began to ask about the petty cash.) It was the surprise appearance of the envelope of cash that, according to congressional testimony, got the FBI investigation going in earnest. Dale's trial, replete with evidence of mismanagement and worse -- including his diversion of $54,000 in refund checks to his own account in a bank near his home in Maryland -- received little attention other than in The Washington Post, which provided regular reporting about it, although there was a spate of stories on his acquittal. The jury appears to have been persuaded by Dale's insistence that he did not spend the money on anything but legitimate expenses, although the records to prove this were missing. While the verdict established his innocence of any crime, widespread reporting of the facts presented in the prosecution's case might have diminished his status as a beleaguered hero.
That’s not a vigorous defense of your candidate. Nor is it a fair criticism of your opponent. It doesn’t even some close to meeting the smell test.
But I’m going to actually give JC a gift. I’m going to illustrate exactly what would have been a fair attack on Hillary’s claims that her experience in the White House makes her the most qualified candidate now. I’m talking about her thoroughly botched effort, in the early days of the administration, to get a health care reform bill passed.
The failed National Task Force on Health Care Reform of 1993, which President Clinton put her in charge of was largely botched through Hillary’s own efforts to exclude the testimony or participation of doctors, insurance companies and healthcare policy experts who disagreed with her viewpoint. Their exclusion raised red flags in the healthcare and insurance industries, the press, and among the public. The insurance industry’s Harry and Thelma commercials did not defeat the health care reform package; they merely exploited the public’s doubts, which were already there because of the secrecy surrounding the process under Hillary.
That would be a legitimate criticism of Hillary’s performance and I’d like to see her answer it. Her record in the Senate, her votes, her character traits are all fair game. And a real examination of them would be welcome.
This isn’t it. It’s a right wing smear attack by somebody who purports to be a Democrat. And as such, it never should have been done. To echo Jane Hamsher, “You never repeat rightwing talking points to hammer your own. Just don’t do it.
UPDATE: J.C. actuall did just post something on Hillary's botched health care reform initiative, which I happen to agree with. Hitting her for her real record is fair game).