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Mourning Claude

Mar
11
2006

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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