Haircuts and Christmas Cards:
An Introduction to Scandal

In the hierarchy of the workplace, Brooke Stroud did not rank at the highest level. But she was conscientious and her immediate bosses at work knew it.

The list of names and addresses for Christmas cards was rife with duplicates. An outside firm, the Saturn Corporation, had been hired to screen out those duplicates, but they were sloppy in their work. Brooke Stroud volunteered to work with a couple of interns over Veterans Day to sort through the list and cross out names.

We don’t know if the top executives at work were appreciative of her efforts. They were probably unaware of her dedication. It could be they were busy with other things. After all, one of those people was Bill Clinton, President of the United States.

Three years later, a new Republican Congress decided to investigate Brooke Stroud. She and others who had volunteered the extra duty during the holiday had taken a copy of the Christmas mailing list to work on it together, out of the office. Could this be prosecuted as theft of government property? Could top level members of the White House staff have been involved? Could the President himself have been in on the conspiracy?

Christmas cards.

Republican Congressional representatives actually buried themselves in the minutia of crossed out names. Had any names been added? Were any of the Christmas greetings been sent for political reasons?

Saturn Corporation had other clients, including the Democratic National Committee. Could holiday card lists have been shared? Did anyone get holiday greetings from both political and official sources?

Parts of the Republican report reads like some demented version of the game board Clue.

The two computer personnel at DNC testified that they had no recollection of these events involving volunteers or weekend work. Though, clearly someone beyond the technical level of Stroud would have been needed to enter the data and set up the terminal access.

Republicans knew in their hearts that important Christmas data had to have been shared with political operatives.

Bryan Daines, the Director of Information services at the DNC, testified that only two DNC employees were technically capable of uploading data into the DNC system from a magnetic tape — he and Al Hurst, a DNC computer programmer. However, neither Daines nor Hurst had any recollection of performing such a task.

Republican investigators only needed to piece together how it was done.

It is likely they would have remembered this incident, given the unusual circumstances of the situation including the use of White House volunteers on a weekend. This suggests that someone other than these two entered the data into the DNC computer.

The fact that Republicans could not find evidence was itself evidence of a conspiracy. Lack of evidence of a crime proved the cover up, which proved the crime.

The committee has been unable to discover in what file name or other identifying information it was entered. What, if any access limitations were built in, and who thereafter had access to the information thus entered is unknown to the committee.

Wow. Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a candlestick.

Christmas cards.

The history of Republican accusations ranges from the absurdly petty to the absurdly serious.

Do we need to go into the suicide of Presidential aide and close friend, Vince Foster? Or the plane crash that killed close friend, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown? Two of many murders in the Republican pantheon of accusations.

When the Clinton White House first moved in, they soon heard about a scandal that had been brewing over previous Presidencies. It involved kickbacks and bribes in the office that booked travel arrangements for official business.

They ordered an independent audit. The accounting firm that was hired was unable to perform the audit. Record keeping in the travel office resembled a huge vat of spaghetti. It was as if the federal budget had been written on post-it notes and thrown into the air. There was no discernible pattern. It impossible to put together anything coherent.

Large amounts were unaccounted for. At best, it was gross incompetence. At worst, it was theft.

Dozens of employees were let go and replaced with people who would put income and expenses into actual ledgers. One of the let go employees was prosecuted, but could not be convicted because records were too haphazard to prove he had pocketed the money.

It turned out that one of the new employees could trace her background to an ancestor that was also related to Bill Clinton. She was his third cousin.

Virtually all of us have third cousins. Virtually none of us would recognize a second cousin, much less a third.

But she was related, no matter how distant the connection. And so another scandal was born. The Clintons had ruthlessly fired long time employees to make room for their own relatives.

A Republican investigation eventually was launched.

The story of the haircut still floats around, unsinkable. It was recently repeated by the New York Times. President Bill Clinton had Air Force One stop at a busy intersection of runways at the Los Angeles International Airport. Hundreds of frustrated passengers were delayed as the President had an expensive stylist cut his hair on the plane.

None of it was true. It was a story made up out of whole cloth, but it is still repeated.

The uproar over the current email scandal does not match the highest levels of the past. But the accumulated accusations, although untrue, do take a toll on the former Secretary’s reputation. Like other accusations, it unravels upon even cursory examination. But members of the general public cannot take the time for investigation, cursory or not.

Past Secretaries of State have, quite reasonably, worked around creaky regulations devised for distant times of teletypes. One rule actually requires that all messages be boxed up and kept in a store room – reasonable for technology used in the Eisenhower administration.

For a generation, no Secretary of State has entrusted important security information to that antiquated system. Secretary Clinton is the first to seek the higher level of safety offered by a secured server in her government guarded residence.

FBI Director James Comey was stern in his public scolding of Hillary Clinton. She had indeed received two documents with information marked as classified, even through she had denied it.

Boy, crooked Hillary.

Director Comey later admitted not having, at the time, a few of the details.

On both documents, the only clue was in the body of the email message. A single (c) was far down in one of the paragraphs, easily missed. A careful reading would have detected the (c), but the volume of correspondence would have made that sort of detailed search impractical for the head of cabinet level department. She has been criticized for turning over to the State Department “only” 30,000 email messages.

One of the two emails containing the little (c) mark down in the text was a suggestion that she might want to call the new president of the small African nation of Malawi, a condolence phone call upon the death of the previous president. The other email was a reminder that Kofi Annan, who had been asked to mediate the conflict in Syria, had announced that he would give up that position and step down.

Such is the nature of what conservatives now call a serious security failure.

Ironically, the partisan screams for Hillary Clinton’s head largely originate with the same folks who justified actual orders from Karl Rove, aide to President Bush. One order was to reveal the secret identity of a CIA operative after it turned out her husband was a Democrat. The other was the destruction of private email messages pertaining to that actual security breach.

Eventually the details will be lost as the scandal fades into a haze, part of an ill-defined cloud from the past, a distant column of smoke that proves there must be fire somewhere.

The general impression of something wrong can last well beyond any interest, or lack of interest, in documented fact.

That documentation seems to show, to the few who will glance toward it, that the only thing wrong has been wrongful accusation of wrongdoing.

Air Force One awaits the new President.

Hair cut anyone?

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.


1 thought on “Haircuts and Christmas Cards:
An Introduction to Scandal”

  1. One of the effects of all this scandal hunting, conspiracy theorizing, and opinions and misinformation masquerading as journalism is that I don’t know what to trust anymore. I’m not even sure if my denial that a given scandal is real is based on partisanship and distrust of the opposition or on a firm grasp of the facts. A liberal source says that the scandal is fake, a conservative source says that the scandal is real, a non-partisan source says that it doesn’t know, and none of them addresses every fact or point that the others raise.

    But I do know that conservatives cater to conspiracy theorists far more than they should for political gain. I read their comments: I see their vitriol, total disregard for nuance, calls for execution and imprisonment for any liberal misstep (real or imagined), bigotry, resentment toward everyone not exactly like them, embrace of contradictory positions (especially negative ones regarding liberals), and rejection of all data that does not confirm what they already “just know” to be true. I watch them conduct investigation after investigation, continuing to find nothing, but persisting in their belief that they will find something the next time around. I see their nominee, who fully embodies the worst stereotype of Americans, makes the most ridiculous promises about what he will accomplish as president, and was a joke candidate just 4 years ago despite being no different then. I read the stories about his rallies. I see the adoration that his sudden fans lavish upon him, despite the criticism that these same people leveled at liberals for doing less for Obama. I hear what big Republican names have to say at the convention: nothing but negativity and hatred. And I do *not* hear enough criticism from other Republicans of what the party has become.

    These people are my enemies on just about every level and I distrust and despise them accordingly. For better or worse, then, my first inclination is always to reject whatever new scandal the GOP puts forth as evidence of liberal overreach or incompetence. And in those cases where there is enough to make me start thinking that Republicans could be on to something, it still doesn’t matter because I will gladly vote for a reasonable criminal over Trump. With someone like that (as opposed to, say, Romney) as a candidate for president, pretty much every supposed Clinton scandal becomes insignificant.

We have a comment policy (sort of)

We often encounter extreme amounts of spam targeting more controversial posts. This tends to annoy and confuse Aunt Tildy. If your comment is accidentally omitted, please help her out by resubmitting, perhaps including a note telling us what happened. If you find comments closed, we can still put yours in its proper place. Just attach to another post with an explanation.

Aunt Tildy appreciates most every comment. Truly. But she has what could be an unrealistic view of the innocence of younger readers. She may hesitate when profanity becomes extreme.

In some cases, you might follow our lead. When we ruffle her delicate sensibilities, a soft apology has usually helped.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *