Dirt-Digging We Can Believe In

One of the more laughable notions during the campaign was Obama’s claim to represent some sort of “new politics”; one of the sillier fictions of the last several years was that Democrats were less prone to dirty tricks and bending the apparatus of government to narrow partisan interests than Republicans. But of course, in any election season there are people eager to lie to themselves and be lied to. Young voters in particular seemed especially, cloyingly eager to swallow this particular nonsense. Worse yet, people like David Brooks (see here and here and here), who in a sane world should have known better, talked themselves into ignoring the warning signs that were written all over Obama’s record and career that he’s never been anything but a front man for bareknuckles Chicago machine politics that runs on patronage, favor-trading and dirt and never, ever places any value above partisan entrenchment and the enrichment of its supporters.
The saga of Shauna Daly is yet another in a seemingly endless series of proofs of this over the first six weeks of united Democratic governance. In late January, Daly was hired as “White House counsel research director”. Daly is 29 and has no experience relevant to the job, having worked for the DNC and a number of Democratic campaigns, including Obama’s:

Miss Daly holds no law degree and doesn’t list any legal training on her resume.
Her sole experience has been as an opposition researcher for Democratic political campaigns: She helped dig up dirt on rivals, or on her own nominee to prepare for attacks.

Daly apparently got the job through the influence of a man who has made a career of flacking for the Daley machine and, apparently, masterminding leaks of divorce files that crippled Obama’s political opponents:

David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser to President Obama, had a hand in bringing Miss Daly to the campaign, and is thought to have been instrumental in bringing her to the White House.

A month later, she was back at the DNC:

Shauna Daly, 29, will be the DNC’s research director, returning to the fast-paced realm of bare-knuckles politics that associates said suits her best.

Given that the White House counsel’s office deals in privileged legal advice to the president, including on sensitive issues of national security, there are reasons to be concerned that Daly has used her brief tenure in the office for gathering information that was never supposed to be used for partisan purposes:

Daly did not waste her time in an office that had reams of Bush Administration documents related to such things as the firings of U.S. Attorneys, the use and internal debate over the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, and the Scooter Libby and Karl Rove investigations, among others.
“She saw everything, and who knows what she was able to scan and pull out on data sticks,” says a Senate Republican Judiciary Committee staffer. “We’ll find out soon enough when we see what the DNC is putting out during [Sen. Patrick] Leahy’s ‘truth committee’ hearings.”


“She realized that she could do more with all the material she saw outside of the building than inside, where she’d be bound by the rules and legalities of the White House Counsel’s Office. Now she isn’t,” says a DNC staffer who works in the communications field. “She’s good at what she does; her time at the White House means we’ve got a mother load of material that will have Republicans scrambling. At least that’s what we hope.”

That view would explain what Daly was doing if she had neither training nor assigned official duties:

Daly, according to White House staff, was often in her office early and one of the last to leave the Old Executive Office Building, which does not jibe with official White House claims that Daly was not doing much in the office, which was one reason for her leaving.

And coincidentally, shortly after her departure, we have Attorney General Holder – a man who was notorious during the Clinton years for subverting things like DOJ’s pardon process to narrow partisan ends – dumping previously privileged or classified legal advice on the war on terror into the public domain, wholly without regard to the precedent this sets for the president’s future ability to get such advice, and all for short-term partisan advantage.
No, you should not be surprised at any of this.

15 thoughts on “Dirt-Digging We Can Believe In”

  1. No wonder Bush wanted the memos to be kept secret. They advocated for the president’s “authority” after 9/11 to suspend First Amendment press freedoms, to order military attacks on American buildings and apartment complexes, and of course to conduct warrantless high tech surveillance of American citizens. Basically, the president as dictator.

  2. Somehow, I missed Bush actually doing those things. Which seems to undercut your side’s whole view of him.
    Why wouldn’t you examine the legality of attacking American buildings, for example, after a day when we might have ended up shooting down civilian airliners? When the day comes that you need to think about the unthinkable, it’s too late to not have thought about it.
    You might also look up the records of Wilson and FDR where the First Amendment is concerned.

  3. Responding to Magrooder’s point on the other thread – whether or not you think Daly intends to use information whose disclosure is literally illegal, as opposed to merely improper, there remains the fact that they hired someone completely unqualified for the job who came in, looked around for a month and went right back to her political job. That should raise eyebrows even among the willfully blind.
    (Oh, and Scooter Libby wasn’t charged with violating any disclosure laws).

  4. The Bush administration tapped phones without a warrant, period. Now you can say that he didnt authorize tanks to bulldoze the NY Times, and you can say that Democratic presidents have overreached in wartime, but that doesnt “undercut….my view” of Bush in the slightest or absolve the Bush administration for its own grievous errors.

  5. As I’ve said before, I have no problem whatsoever with warrantless surveillance of international phone calls involving suspected enemy combatants. That’s just applying new technology to an ancient method of wartime surveillance of the enemy, like if James Madison tried to spy on the British Army as it marched on Washington; would he have needed a warrant because they were on American soil? (And of course, that surveillance policy’s necessity is confirmed by the fact that even Obama has acquiesced in it).

  6. The fly in the ointment is that warrantless surveillance of those phone calls abrogates the rights of U.S. citizens on the other end, and it gives too much discretion to the executive branch to deem people “enemy combatants” and end-run the Constitution. Just put it in an affidavit and have a judge sign off on the taps if you can make your case. Judges are available 24/7 for this, and you got nothing to worry about if your case is sound.

  7. Basically it permits Obama, for example, to deem an international “friend” of Limbaugh to be an enemy combatant and tap his phone. That’s the extreme example, but it demonstrates the harm in allowing the executive branch to act without a warrant and according to its own definition of who the Constitution applies to.

  8. Seth, we all know this. Which is why we are careful about who we elect as Executive during wartime. Or perhaps why we should be.
    You people for nearly 8 years have denied we are even in a war, but rather than criticize your candidate for doing exactly as ours has done–when we argued that we were at war–you want to have your cake and eat it too.
    So make a choice: We are at war and our elected Executive ought to be able to listen in on enemy communications, or we are not and it is illegal for the Executive to do so. You cannot believe Bush is guilty of overreach because we are not at war and at the same time believe Obama is not impeachable for this.

  9. “You cannot believe Bush is guilty of overreach because we are not at war and at the same time believe Obama is not impeachable for this.”
    This is the Left you’re talking about.

  10. As little as two generations ago (the 1950s) many Americans still had party telephone lines where their conversations could and were listened to without court orders or any particular level of concern. Now we worry about residents of America (not always citizens) having their illegal machinations eavesdropped upon when talking overseas.
    How tender our consciences have become. Kinda ironic, ain’t it?

  11. “When the day comes that you need to think about the unthinkable, it’s too late to not have thought about it.”
    Well Crank if the scientific consensus is correct about global warming then the time to act is now and the above logic applies. McCain himself had a good line on the campaign trail “if humans dont cause global warming but we curb emissions we wind up with a cleaner planet, but if humans do cause omissions and we dont act, (paraphrased) then we’re f**ked”. The theory is only up for debate in the minds of oil company sponsored scientists and their “studies”. The science behind human caused global warming is sound and is completely divorced from ordinary liberal/conservative political machinations.

  12. The OLC’s job is to ensure that the Constitution is followed not avoided. The public has every right to know that Bush was receiving advice to ignore the First and Fourth Amendments and the Posse Comitatus Act. Conservatives of all people should be outraged at the efforts to stretch executive power beyond all Constitutional limits. The disclosure won’t prevent Presidents from getting candid behind the scenes advice from sycophants while they are in office; the disclosure gets delayed until a subsequent admin is willing to release it.

  13. Obama is impeachable for this just like W was.
    Unfortunately, Pelosi and Reid stupidly took impeachment off the table. Now we’re stuck with a country that doesn’t believe in the rule of law, and refuses to defend the Constitution.
    Crank, feel free to take a bow for your complicity.

  14. This brings to mind the 500+ FBI files reviewed by the WH counsel’s office for the purpose of digging up dirt on political opponents in the early days of the Clinton White House.

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