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No Honor?

Aug
2
2006

The essence of lying is in deception, not words.
— John Ruskin, Modern Painters

It’s time for a brief update on the unfortunate encounters with the justice system that three of Mr. Bush’s appointees have enjoyed. My favorite (and each reader will have his or her own) is Claude A. Allen who was not only creative but unique. The others, modeling themselves on their president, were simply liars.

Mr. Allen was one of George Bush’s top policy advisors. In addition to giving Mr. Bush important policy advice, for which he was paid $161,000 a year, Mr. Allen supplemented his income by working at Target Stores. He was not your typical Target employee. His employment allegedly consisted of going into a Target store and buying and paying for a whole lot of stuff. He would then put the stuff in his car and return to the store with the receipt and pick up some more of exactly the same stuff he had just put in his car. According to arrest records, he’d take that stuff to the cashier and, displaying the receipt, get a refund. To people of integrity that seems like a bad thing to do. To an official in the Bush White House it was nothing more than a simple and creative way of supplementing his income.

Mr. Allen was not an extravagant sort and nothing was so small as to be beneath his dignity. According to police records in addition to scamming a $525 Bose theater system, he took items costing little as $2.50. Explaining to the Bush White House what he did he said it was a credit card mix-up. The explanation, though creative, did not fool the prosecutors who charged him with theft and theft schemes. It apparently did not fool the White House either since Mr. Allen no longer works there. And it apparently did not fool Mr. Allen either. On June 30 his trial on the criminal charges was being postponed, suggesting that a plea arrangement – formally announced today – was in the works.

When Mr. Bush learned that this was not just a credit card problem he said it would be “deeply disappointing” if Mr. Allen had misled him. Mr. Allen faces possible prison terms of more than 15 years.

Mr. Allen should not feel that he has disgraced the Bush administration by his actions. He is in good company. One of his companion is Lester Crawford, a veterinarian who was chosen by Mr. Bush to head the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Crawford was the F.D.A. commissioner for slightly more than a year. In addition to serving as yet another example of the fact that lack of integrity is no bar to working in the Bush administration, Crawford’s brief moment of fame came when he over ruled an advisory panel of scientists who said that the emergency contraceptive pills known as Plan B should be sold over the counter. In April 2006 he resigned saying it was time for a new leader for the F.D.A. He was right but not for the reasons he thought.

Shortly after he resigned news came that he was apparently being investigated for financial improprieties and making false statements to Congress. Mr. Crawford was called to testify before a grand jury at which his lawyer said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. As of this writing he has not been indicted – he may not be. But, as with Mr. Allen, the appearance of impropriety is disturbing.

Less ambiguous is the case of David Safavian. He has been convicted and awaits sentencing. Athough there were some financial fringe benefits, his criminal conduct is somewhat more honorable than that of Messrs. Allen and Crawford since it did not involve financial improprieties that directly lined his pockets.

Mr. Safavian served as chief of staff of the General Services Administration and then as head of procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, a position from which he resigned on September 16, 2005. Rather than take him out of the limelight, it focused more attention on his activities. Mr. Safavian was arrested two days after his resignation and charged with lying to investigators and obstructing a federal inquiry. In June he was convicted of lying to government investigators and obstructing justice in connection with his relationship with Jack Abramoff, another convicted former good friend of the Bush administration.

Surely, none of the men named above should feel responsible for bringing disgrace and dishonor to the Bush administration. They are nothing more than bit players in the tragedy in which Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have the leading roles.

Share  Posted by Christopher Brauchli at 11:15 AM | Permalink

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