Gaggle Deconstruction

From Holden:

I expected yesterday’s edition of Obsession to generate a bit of a buzz as the scandal-plagued Bush assministration was caught with Boeing all over its face. So far there’s been no buzz so maybe I need to deconstruct Little Scottie a bit.

So here’s the first set of questions and responses that addressed the growing scandal.

Q Scott, a question about this Inspector General’s report, involving the lease deal between the Air Force and Boeing. In that report, there are 45 references to White House officials that have been deleted in the Inspector General’s report. And that has to do with White House officials’ involvement in this particular deal as it was being negotiated and then became more controversial. The question is, would the White House object to these names — the names of the White House officials in this report being unredacted, being made public? And, if not, would it, in fact, invoke executive privilege to keep those names — the names of those officials secret?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it was understood going in that this is a jurisdictional matter. The Inspector General for any department only has jurisdiction over that particular department.

Q So what?

Q I’m sorry, I guess I don’t understand — what does that have to do with —

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, in this instance. They only have jurisdiction over their particular agency. We worked to help facilitate the investigation by the Inspector General, but this is a jurisdictional matter.

OK, that’s simple enough. Scottie claims that the Pentagon’s Inspector General does not have the authority to investigate the White House and that’s why they removed the 45 reference to White House staff members from the report.

But later he weakens his point by stating:

The Inspector General had access to the information.

Uh, Scottie…. if the Inspector General does not have jurisdiction over the White House, why was he allowed “access to the information”.

Later still he weakens his “jurisdictional” arguement again.

Q No, but if you fall back on the excuse that jurisdictional concerns prevent those names from being made public, you let us wonder whether there was any connection between any of the White House names in that report and any of the wrongdoing.

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, that’s all been looked into and continues to be looked into by members of Congress. It was looked into by the Inspector General. The Inspector General, as I pointed out, had access to this information so that he could look at it, and look at it in the overall context, as well.

Here Scottie argues that the Inspector General and members of Congress have investigated the White House staff whose names were redacted from the report, implying they were cleared. But I thougth the Inspector General did not have any jurisdiction over the White House. If that is so, how can he investigate and clear White House staff?

Finally, we turn to the only White House staff member mentioned in the WaPo piece on the Inspector General’s report: White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.

Q So who in the White House was involved in putting pressure to make sure this deal went through? The Washington Post reports and names Andy Card as having some conversations about it, perhaps pushing for the deal. Is that accurate? Were other officials within the White House involved in pushing the deal forward?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn’t describe your characterization as accurate. In terms of Andy Card’s involvement, I’ve talked to that previously. He served, as he does on a host of issues, simply as an honest broker to make sure that all views were represented and to make sure that it was completed in a timely matter, because it was relating to a national security need that was pressing. And that was the extent of his role.

Scottie sez, “In terms of Andy Card’s involvement, I’ve talked to that previously.” I wonder when that was? I can’t seem to find any explanation of Andy Card’s involvement in the Boeing deal in any prior press briefing.

Here on October 27, 2003, Scottie speaks of the “urgent need” to lease the refurbished tankers from Boeing…

Q On the wartime supplemental, does the administration support including in a final bill a provision that would fund a tanker leasing deal for Boeing that has fallen under criticism both by former OMB Director Mitch Daniels as being too costly, as well as by the GAO, which has said that this particular arrangement does not meet thorough accounting standards?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, the Air Force and the OMB have reviewed this issue thoroughly. I think we’ve already seen that we’ve secured significant savings from the initial estimates. There is an urgent need to upgrade our tanker capability, and that’s why we are working to — with Congress to meet this important national security need while making sure that our taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars.

Q According to one Air Force study, they concluded that new planes are not needed until after 2010, and that because of the way this arrangement was made, it’s actually a purchase in disguise, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think that we’ve worked to meet — make sure that an urgent need was met — an urgent national security need — and that taxpayers are getting the best values. So that’s — the Air Force — both the Air Force and the OMB looked at this thoroughly and reviewed these matters and worked with members of Congress to address this and make sure that the taxpayers were getting good value for their dollars, as we meet this important national security need.

And on November 24, 2003 Scottie-sub Claire Buchan claims she is “not aware of the conflict of interest” in the Boeing deal.

But no explanation seems to have ever been given regarding Andy Card’s role in the scandal, although he seems to have been deeply involved in pushing the deal.