Archive for category Scandal

Manufacturing Scandals

Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

If anyone epitomizes the toxic partisan atmosphere of the US Congress these days, it’s Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.   Whether it’s allegations about Benghazi, the IRS, or most recently the Hatch Act, Issa has searched for anything he could use to manufacture a scandal in order to tarnish the Obama Administration.   He has issued 99 subpoenas, most of them unilateral and political.

Recently, trying to argue that the White House was violating the Hatch Act prohibiting senior officials from engaging in political activity while doing their duties, Issa subpoenaed David Simas, a top White House advisor.  The White House balked, saying there is no reason to him to testify and as a top advisor he was immune from such a subpoena.   Issa had called two other witnesses, but after seeing that their testimony would contradict his claims of clear violations of the Hatch Act, he quickly ended the session without giving them a chance to testify.

Issa's actions have infuriated ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings who correctly notes that Issa's actions has destroyed the committee's credibility

Issa’s actions have infuriated ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings who correctly notes that Issa’s actions has destroyed the committee’s credibility

 

The subpoena abuse and abrupt cutting off of testimony that would weaken his claim angered ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings, who said Issa was using the committee as “center stage for political theater.”   Indeed, Issa’s activities go far beyond the norm for that committee.   His subpoenas are mostly “unilateral,” meaning they don’t have the approval of the ranking Democrat nor has the committee voted.  In essence he’s casting his net wide hoping he’ll find something.

This is unprecedented – in the past (except for a brief time when the GOP pursued Clinton) the committee has been very careful with subpoenas – almost always they had bipartisan support. That in a microcosm is what’s wrong with Washington.  Rather than trying to figure out how to run the country better and solve problems, the goal is to find some way to politically embarrass the other side.

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But there is also reason not to trust Issa. Issa has been accused of car theft, insurance fraud (he settled out of court for $20,000 with an insurance company rather than collecting hundreds of thousands he was insured for because the fire was so suspicious) and there is no evidence of how he was able to purchase his business anyway.  In short, the guy is at best shady.  (Read more: here)

The desire on the far right for some kind of scandal to use to impeach Obama has failed, yet they have created a fantasy land where they think Obama’s been acting like a tyrant.  They claim he’s trying to run the country with executive orders when the number he’s made is small by historical standards, and minuscule compared to his predecessor.    Of course, when Dick Cheney, architect of an Iraq war that has damaged US foreign policy more than any other policy in history, says Obama’s the worst President – well, it’s clear he can’t handle reality.

The GOP has to watch it.   While inbred blogs and talk radio can get them to bolster their own fantasies and think it’s clear that Obama is an idiot and the scandals are real, that’s not reality.  It’s a political fantasy shared with an almost cult-like set of memes and false beliefs.

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They correctly see how the culture of the US and our role in the world is shifting due to globalization, changing demographics, and economic reality.   They don’t like the way the country is changing, and a black President Barack Hussein Obama personifies the new emerging America.  Rather than dealing with reality, they hope they can make it go away by finding some sexy scandal that could destroy Obama and thus the America he represents.

That prevents them from playing a constructive role in dealing with the real issues (rather than improve Obamacare they try in vain to eliminate it).  Ultimately, reality bites.  The world is changing, and there is no super scandal that will turn back time.  We need a constructive conservative voice, not a delusional one.

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Generals Gone Wild!

General John Allen and David Petraeus find themselves in deep trouble thanks to their indiscretions

Last Thursday the students in the Honors first year seminar headed down to Colby College in Waterville to see a modern production of the Aristophanes classic Lysistrata.    It was hilarious.

Colby College Theater Department chair Lynne Connor adapted it and injected it with modern themes, ranging from binders of women to frustrated men walking around with toy light sabers positioned like male erections.    A subtheme of the whole play was the role of women as a potential force against war, as well as the insanity of war in general.

The age old themes of women, men, sex and warfare had a turn for the bizarre with the news that first CIA Director David Petraeus and now General John Allen, a four star general commanding forces in Afghanistan, may be brought down by indiscretions involving attractive women connected with the military.   Aristophanes would smile – la plus ca change, la plus c’est la meme chose – the more things change the more they stay the same.

Given events, Colby’s production of Lysistrata was well timed

The scandal started with jarring news directly after the election that David Petraeus had resigned as CIA director due to an affair with Paula Broadwell.   Broadwell, a beautiful and athletic women in her late thirties, had observed Petraeus in order to write a book about his leadership skills.    Though they worked together from 2008 onward, the affair apparently started in 2011 after Petraeus left the military.

They thought they had it hidden.   Borrowing from al qaeda methods of communication, they shared an e-mail account and left messages as drafts in their files.   Each could access the account and read the drafts.   Clever.   At this point not much more is known about their relationship, though Broadwell’s father says there is “a lot more than meets the eye” and that new revelations are likely.

The FBI started investigating when another woman, Jill Kelley, reported receiving harassing e-mails from Broadwell in July 2012.    The FBI quickly determined that Broadwell sent the e-mails.   In so doing they found the gmail account used by Petraeus and Broadwell to discuss their affair.

In September US Attorney General Eric Holder was notified of the investigation.  The FBI said they didn’t think there was any security breach but wanted to continue to investigate whether or not Petraeus had a role in the harassing e-mails.    On October 27 Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor was notified as well.   At this point it seems that people wanted to keep the matter quiet.  If it’s just an affair, better to not have it destroy the career of Petraeus, whose success in Iraq helped make him a national hero.   Holder didn’t tell the White House or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Cantor didn’t tell House Speaker John Boehner.

Something happened after the second FBI interview with the principles in late October.   Within a week, Petraeus had resigned.   (UPDATE:  According to the Washington Post, it may have been Cantor’s involvement that actually caused the case to go public.  In their report Petraeus is indeed a subject of the e-mails sent to Kelley, and the FBI was relaxing the investigation when an upset agent contacted a Representative who contacted Cantor who called the FBI director…I’ll not add any more updates to this fast changing story.)

Attractive, athletic, married and a mom, Paula Broadwell made the rounds selling her biography of David Petraeus, “All In.”

Even as jaws were dropping about Petraeus’ resignation the issue got more complicated.   Jill Kelley is the social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, home to the military’s Central Command and Special Operations Command.   She and her husband have been friends with Petraeus and his wife for a long time.

While at first some thought this could be a love triangle, it appears that the e-mails hardly mentioned Petraeus and were more like a “cat fight.”   Broadwell apparently thought Kelley was strutting around the base with too much verve and should be taken down a notch.   Kelley was mystified by these mysterious but troubling e-mails and notified the FBI.   Since the e-mails contained no overt threat the FBI almost didn’t investigate.   After consulting the laws they decided there was enough to warrant looking further.

Was it just childish jealousy that caused Boadwell to start harassing Kelley?

But the plot was to thicken yet again.   During the investigation the FBI  found 20,000 to 30,000 e-mails exchanged between Kelley and General John Allen between 2010 and 2012.     That’s at least 20 to 30 a day on average, every day for nearly three years!

That the commander in Afghanistan spent so much communicating with a party planner in Tampa raises eyebrows.   For now hearings scheduled this week for his promotion to head the US European Command and become Commander of NATO forces has been put on hold.   If he did have an affair with Kelley he could face a court-martial as adultery is against Army law (Petraeus smartly started his affair after he left the military).   He claims there was no wrong doing.

What to make of all this?   Well, Broadwell’s book about Petraeus received a sales boost from the news, even if her husband had to cancel her 40th Birthday party.     Holly Petraeus is justifiably outraged:  a good military wife for 37 years and her husband cheats with a woman who appears to be an egomaniac, albeit a well built and attractive egomaniac?

But is there more?   Tweets with Broadwell and Karl Rove have surfaced, rumors about Libya — did the CIA hold prisoners in the Libyan embassy that the attackers wanted to free? — and a host of other questions swirl about.  All of this has a kind of soap opera quality, something Jon Stewart mocked as “Spyfall.”   For now we have wait and see how this will unravel.   A few lessons though:

1.  All would be cheaters who want to use sneaky facebook or e-mail account tricks to hide your affair – don’t try.   If the head of the CIA using al qaeda like tactics can’t even get away with hiding his tracks, anyone can get caught!

2.   Pillow talk and sexual desire can take down even the strongest and most powerful among us, from Sampson and Delilah to Petraeus and Broadwell.

And finally,

3.   The themes of sex, power and war that Aristophanes explored over 2500 years ago are valid yet today.   For all our progress and technology, men still think with their light sabers.

 

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