The Ol' E-Mail End Run Works Like a Charm
We all have e-mail accounts, many of us more than one. So what's the big deal about White House officials, including Karl Rove, using their Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to conduct official government business? I mean, an e-mail's an e-mail, right? And who precisely is the human-resources cop at the White House who is going to tell Rove and other White House bigwigs that they have to make sure they use the correct e-mail accounts for the proper reasons? No biggie. Just another Democratic fishing expedition.
It's likewise no biggie that we learned Monday from a preliminary report from the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that: "There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials... Although the RNC has preserved no e-mail records for Ken Mehlman, the former Director of Political Affairs, Ms. Ralston testified that Mr. Mehlman used his account 'frequently, daily....' The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Mr. Rove during President Bush's first term and no e-mails sent by Mr. Rove prior to November 2003. For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006."
After all, the RNC isn't a government agency that is required by law to maintain these types of records for political and historical and legal purposes. Much ado about nothing, I say. Congress, and by extension you and me, have no business poking our noses in Karl Rove's work no matter which e-mail account he has. As the ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee said, instead of criticizing the White House and its partisan friends at the RNC, we ought to be praising the latter for its "good faith" efforts to try to provide information to the Committee. I mean, we can't all expect perfection when it comes to record retention -- just look at what happened to poor Arthur Andersen!
Smart folks, these White House officials. The draft report suggests what many critics of the Bush administration had long ago surmised: Important government officials in this administration years ago figured out a way to circumvent their responsibilities under the Presidential Records Act by doing some of their work, whatever it was, on RNC accounts that could (and apparently did) conveniently become "lost" when the vultures began to circle (as they have here as an offshoot to the U.S. attorney investigation).
And so it has come to pass that work that was done in our name by unelected officials is not available for the investigators and the lawyers and the judges and the journalists and the historians and the novelists who today and for many generations will be hampered in their efforts to make meaning out of this administration's legacy. Worse, there have been no declarations of disgust or frustration by President Bush, who ran for office in 2000 pledging to do away with Clinton-era parsing of ethical obligations. There has been no call or demand to make things right, or to correct things going forward, or to truly cooperate with the congressional investigations that now appear destined to track this presidency until it ends 18 months from now.
Just watch. The draft report is just the tip of the iceberg, but the ship of state is moving full steam ahead. It's not going to end well.
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