CBS reporter Leslie Stahl (“60 Minutes“) expressed exasperation on the third season premiere of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” when Maher asked about the current scandal in the White House Press Office. I admit I had heard about it but not seeing much in the media, I assumed that this was just another story that was dead on arrival but the points raised by Stahl and Maher have given me pause to investigate further. So, here goes…
I won’t waste your time going into the background of this story. That can be done by reviewing the article “A Man Called Jeff” at AmericaBlog.com or another article at Salon.com. Bloggers of the world stand and be proud. Thanks to John at AmericaBlog, and several other blogs all over the country, the truth about this reporter from Talon News has come out. The fact that James Guckert used the pseudonym “Jeff Gannon” in his press reports does not bother me. Many authors, celebrities, etc. use them. The fact that he may have advertised on several web sites as a male escort for other males is not even an issue with me. If he chose to generate an income in that way, he is certainly entitled to do so. I hope that Mr. Guckert kept track of all his dates and reported that income on his tax returns in a timely manner. James Guckert/Jeff Gannon is not the issue. The Administration of George Walker Bush bears the responsibility. Looking at both sides of the issue, I’m left with more questions than answers.
ON THE RIGHT: Republicans in Congress and in grassroots America should be outraged by this breach of security. President Bush has done an excellent job of convincing most Americans that his Administration is on top of our national security. Is the White House exempt from any and all security breaches? How did Mr. Guckert-Gannon get a press pass? His legal name was on it, so the White House Press Office knew who he was. After a thorough background check, Mr. Guckert-Gannon must have been cleared — but by whom? The fact that Mr. Guckert-Gannon worked for GOPUSA before Talon News was spun off indicates that the White House must have recognized his credentials as a bona fide reporter. After all, GOPUSA is a conservative organization which blindly supports the Bush Administration.
There’s a scandal brewing, my Republican friends, and I submit that this has the potential of exploding into another Watergate. Had it occurred before 9/11 it may not have mattered as much. There’s a hole in the veil of security that surrounds the White House. Where are the outraged Republicans demanding thorough investigation? There is something extremely Nixonian going on here. If this was William Jefferson Clinton, there would be rabid calls for a special prosecutor. “I just don’t get it. How he got a press pass?… You have to be cleared through the Secret Service to get it… There’s something behind this story that has to come out,” commented Ms. Stahl, implying that there will be no investigation. That is an issue that Republicans within and outside the Beltway must address. And a note to the fundamentalists — don’t make this a gay issue.
ON THE LEFT: Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) asked “how could that happen and nobody had any idea who he was.” He said that if Democrats were in charge there would be an investigation and implied that due to the Republican majority there will be none. Biden said that he cannot call for a hearing in that only chairmen of committees can call for a hearing. Respectfully I have to disagree. Here is an opportunity for Democrats in Congress to step up to the plate and make some points with the American people. Granted, under the procedures adopted by this Congress, Democrats have little or no power to do much of anything; however, that does not negate their political responsibility to follow through. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said last week that Democrats will work with new DNC Chair Howard Dean and they expect that Dean will take his directions from the same Congressional Democrats. Ms. Pelosi should be more concerned about building a spirit of bipartisanship and worry less about the everyday operations of the Democratic Party. This Congress has two years remaining and there is much work that needs to be done which cannot be deferred until after the mid-term elections.
Howard Dean, in his capacity as DNC Chairman, should be pounding his fists on a podium at a press conference demanding complete disclosure by the White House. There is ample evidence to show that Mr. Guckert-Gannon had access to someone in the White House. There is an appearance of impropriety at the highest levels, not specifically by President Bush, but by someone in the upper echelon of the Administration. What are the Democrats afraid of? In a political system such as ours, it is the duty of the opposition party to ask questions and hold the majority accountable. There is a system of checks and balances between the three branches of government. There is also a political system of checks and balances between the two most powerful political parties and the media. It is not treason to question the actions of government. It is not un-American to call for the accountability of our elected officials.
In the end, there are similarities between this embarrassment and the disclosure of Joe Wilson’s wife as a CIA operative. Americans should be demanding an investigation by calling their elected representatives at the local, state and Federal levels. We should be here on the Internet posting at blogs and news websites asking the media why they have not done more to determine what happened. Again, this is not about a male prostitute becoming a White House reporter. This is about an Administration prepared to take away fundamental rights of Americans in the name of “national security” while they can’t keep their own press room secure. President Bush welcomed an investigation of the Wilson affair just over a year ago and the American people still have no clue what happened. Mr. President, if your own Administration is incapable of insuring the security of the White House press office, how can your Administration be capable of insuring our security as a Nation?