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Mourning Claude


Claude Allen is disgraced. The former White House domestic policy advisor and Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services was arrested today for alleged participation in a shoplifting scheme. Right now, the charges are merely, as the press must say, allegations. But the taint of scandal ends Allen’s Washington career as surely as a conviction.

I worked for Claude Allen — or more accurately, under him. I was a speechwriter at the Department of Health and Human Services during his time as Deputy Secretary there. He was a striking presence and an obvious up-and-comer: young, telegenic, and vastly more articulate than his boss, Claude was discussed with some seriousness as a successor to Secretary Thompson. His professional life was marked by a humble and gracious demeanor — and high intellectual wattage — that set him apart from other high-ranking officials. He was rock-solid on the issues, strongly pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family. It was no surprise that he was nominated for a judgeship; and no surprise that he was called to serve in the White House itself. I joined those who knew Claude in outrage at his judicial nomination’s victimization by obstructionist Democrats. In retrospect, it seems a blessing in disguise.

Claude Allen’s fall from grace is, for the most part, a DC inside-baseball event affecting none of the great issues of the day, and certainly not life in Peoria. That’s why you’ll see a few people following John Podhoretz’s lead and claiming to have never heard of Allen. (Podhoretz is either lying, or not the political journalist he should be after a full quarter-century.) They can get away with it, because most Americans outside the Beltway have also never heard of Allen. And that’s why the left-wing attempts to exploit this incident will come to nothing — particularly as the White House quite obviously forced him to resign upon learning of his troubles.

But for those who knew him, this is a tragedy. The examination of what turns a man to crime is better done by a Dostoevsky. The examination of what turns a well-off man in high office to petty, small-time crime is better done by a student of madness. There is a perverse curiosity in wanting to know what turned Claude Allen bad. But more immediately, and more appropriately, there is bewilderment, astonishment — and mourning, as one would for the dead.

Exception is taken, and rightly so, to the suggestion above that Podhoretz might be lying. I continue to believe that knowledge of the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy ought to be a given for observers of the White House. But in the imputation of dishonesty, the error is mine.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 2:41 AM | Permalink

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