SpongeBerger ScandalPants Update

Jonah Goldberg suggests that Clinton spinmeister Lanny Davis might be behind the Berger leak. I’m not entirely convinced of this, although it is well within the realm of possibility. Davis was known for deliberately leaking scandalous information at times where they’d be buried by later events, and the reporter who broke the Berger story happens to be Davis’ favorite.

The other related theory is that the Clintons (who undoubtedly knew of the investigation since Berger had informed Clinton lawyer Bruce Lindsay) are using this to sabotage Kerry so Hillary can run in 2008. I don’t think this is likely at all, but again it is well within the realm of possibility.

On the other hand, I have a feeling that the explanation is far more prosaic. When the investigation moved to the Justice Department it becomes much less harder to keep from the public. No matter when this investigation would have been revealed the Democrats would have accused it of being a dirty political trick, and were this leak politically motivated it would make much more sense to have let it loose after the DNC confab in Boston rather than before where it can get buried.

The other question that this affair raises is whether Kerry knew of this or not. Berger took the documents in October of last year and has been under investigation since then. The Clintons must have known, and certainly Bruce Lindsay did. So why didn’t Berger step down preemptively long ago? Or did he not tell Kerry? Or did Kerry already know? The answers to these questions could be quite telling. It seems unlikely that Kerry would not have known, but given the machinations surrounding this case, it’s impossible to say. One would think Kerry would be furious with Berger if he was not informed of this case long before the media got wind of it.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds (in true law professor style) identifies the relevant statute in the case and what the penalties are. If the story about Berger stuffing notes into his socks is true, it proves that his actions were intentional, which carries a higher penalty. His current defense, that he “inadvertantly” took the documents, may not fly either. Berger was a National Security Advisor. He knows the rules involving classified documents. He knows that any notes have to be screened by an archivist to ensure that they do not contain classified materials. He sure as hell knows that you do not allow documents that are clearly and visibly marked on every page to end up in your portfolio. He also knows damn well that the government doesn’t just keep extra copies of sensitive documents around, especially when they’re highly access-controlled such as the 2000 after-action report.

I have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before Berger is indicted. It’s a clear case, Berger admits to taking classified documents, and it is clear he was negligent in doing so. Especially for someone who should damn well know better, Berger’s excuses are simply pathetic. Our nation’s secrets deserve more respect than to end up in a Virginia landfill, especially when a terrorist group would love nothing more than to get their hands on those documents.

UPDATE: Even liberal blogger Kevin Drum thinks this is a Democratic leak:

I think it must have actually been a Democrat who leaked it. Frankly, if I were a Republican, I would have waited until around the last week of October or so. My guess is that some sharp Democratic operative figured out that this wasn’t going to stay a secret forever and decided (correctly) that it was better to get it into the open now rather than later.

It’s a classic example of the kind of pre-emptive leaking that Clinton did all the time – and if I were a Democrat who knew of this scandal, I’d probably advise doing the same thing. If I were a GOP operative looking to get some political traction out of this scandal, the last thing I’d do is advise leaking it in the week before the Democratic Convention when it will get swept out of the news and impact would be negated in a week. I think the pre-emptive leak theory is the most credible – assuming that the leak was politically motivated to begin with…

9 thoughts on “SpongeBerger ScandalPants Update

  1. Breaking news!!!!! Berger found dead! Clintons listed as #1 suspects!

    Now it’s really getting interesting. Will the headlines surrounding the Clintons’ second murder in the past 11 years hurt John Kerry’s poll numbers? If the Clintons speak at the Democratic Convention, will they have to wear orange jumpsuits and leg shackles? Did the Clintons murder Sandy Berger simply to sabotage Kerry to improve Hillary’s chances in 2008 in the hopes that she’ll get paroled or out for work release? Is Berger really dead, or is the whole thing a sham designed to ruin John Kerry’s chances and make way for Hillary? Is there any truth to the reports that the real discovery in Berger’s socks were “Hillary ’08” campaign buttons?

    Stay tuned……you won’t find any black helicopter conspiracy theories about the Berger story anywhere else except among right-wing bloggers desperate to sink a Democratic nominee they know is on the verge of unseating Bush. Come to think of it, you’re unlikely to find any stories at all about the Berger scandal anywhere other the blogosphere…and perhaps Fox News for those who get it.

  2. Yes, it’s not like CNN is covering it… or The Washington Post, or EVERY BLOODY NEWS OUTLET IN THE WORLD!

    Of course, Berger was totally framed. I bet Karl Rove descended from the ceiling like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible and stuffed those documents into Berger’s portfolio…

    First Richard Clarke, then Joe Wilson, now Sandy Berger… it appears that the list of Democratic attack dogs getting tripped up in their own lies just keeps growing…

  3. I suppose the Berger scandal is getting some coverage….on page 8B of most newspapers and as the sixth feature on the evening news, right before the latest reports about secondhand smoke is killing us and hard liquor is helping us live longer. I wouldn’t discount the possibility that this could blossom into a problem FOR SANDY BERGER, but I think you guys should step out of the sun if you think this will somehow sink the Kerry campaign.

  4. Wow, does all that spinning make you nauseous?

    For the record, Sandy Berger was John Kerry’s chief foreign policy advisor, advising him on key national security issues. It is possible that Berger was taking those documents to help Kerry in some way.

    I’m not saying Kerry was involved in any way, although he may have known about Berger’s situation for some time. However, it does reflect badly on Kerry that someone who is his most trusted foreign policy advisor can’t follow some of the most basic rules of dealing with classified information.

  5. Jay: you bring up some good points about what Kerry knew and when he knew it.

    In an interview in Denver, Clinton admits that he’s known about this months. So then did Kerry know?

    If Kerry knew, then at the very least his campaign would have to incredibly stupid to keep associating with Berger.

    If Kerry didn’t know, then why not? Why would Berger not inform Kerry of something like this?

    Either way, the number of questions keeps growing…

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