"Well, the President would argue, actually, that he has been -- had been listening to his military leaders, is the argument he makes...I`ve been in the Oval Office when he sits and says -- he points to the desk, the President`s desk, and says, I`m not going to be like LBJ, second-guessing my military commanders and picking targets in Vietnam." -- Kate O'Beirne on Tucker, August 22, 2007
Hey Tucker. We're still waiting for Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons We Failed in Iraq." But here's a safe bet. Kate O'Beirne is married to one of them.
In the months following the initial invasion, James O'Beirne, the White House liaison to the Pentagon, imposed political patronage and corrupt practices that paralyzed Defense Department operations in Iraq. (Remember, the Coalition Provisional Authority operated under the auspices of the Defense Department.) Afterward, when Congress asked for O'Beirne's paper trail, the Pentagon stonewalled and continues to stonewall. And then on your show, Mrs. O'Beirne goes on a tear about how George Bush has no interest in politicizing the military.
My hunch is the guy talking into your earphone last Wednesday dropped the ball. He should have said, "Say something about full disclosure, like 'In the spirit of full disclosure, Kate's husband, was the White House liaison to the Pentagon soon after the fall of Saddam.'"
Otherwise it looks a little smarmy, like you're passing her off as a member of the independent press, when in fact you're giving a platform to somebody who has both an ax to grind and a motive to cover up. After all, MSNBC doesn't ask Andrea Mitchell to comment on the Fed's interest rate strategy. Diane Sawyer never reviewed Spamalot on Good Morning America.
In fact, it looks even worse when you consider that James O'Beirne refused to comment for the Washington Post, which exposed the political patronage scandal. It gives the appearance that you and MSNBC are playing by the O'Beirnes' rules -- enabling them to promote their personal and political agenda while keeping certain questions off limits. And now that the Associated Press reports repeated government cover-ups of corrupt practices in Iraq, you don't want anyone suggesting that MSNBC is tarnished by the same brush.
You can't say you weren't warned. Eighteen months ago, Arianna criticized you on the issue of non-disclosure of family connections. It got a fair amount of attention back then.
My advice: make a brief comment on your next broadcast. Something along the lines of, "By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, when Kate O'Beirne joined us last week to comment on the President's policy on Iraq, we should have mentioned that her husband worked as the White House liaison to the Defense Department on matters pertaining to Iraq."
As Arianna wrote, "See, Tucker, transparency is as easy as that."
And to jog your memory, here's a precis of the James O'Beirne scandal:
James O'Beirne took every step to assure that, in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, people running the country would be Americans who were both incompetent and politically correct. He sidelined the Korn/Ferry executives brought in to head up the recruitment process. O'Beirne and his staff sidestepped civil service laws drafted to prevent this type of malfeasance, by claiming that CPA staffers were temporary political appointees. A public roster of the entire CPA staff, which reached 1,500 at its peak, was never released. Here are some examples of the assignments and the people entrusted to carry them out:
1. Reopening Baghdad's stock exchange: Jay Hallen, age 24 at the time. Graduated Yale two years earlier. Previous job was working at a commercial real estate firm. No prior experience in finance.
"Hallen decided that he didn't just want to reopen the exchange, he wanted to make it the best, most modern stock market in the Arab world. He wanted to promulgate a new securities law that would make the exchange independent of the Finance Ministry, with its own bylaws and board of directors. He wanted to set up a securities and exchange commission to oversee the market. He wanted brokers to be licensed and listed companies to provide financial disclosures. He wanted to install a computerized trading and settlement system.
"Iraqis cringed at Hallen's plan. Their top priority was reopening the exchange, not setting up computers or enacting a new securities law. 'People are broke and bewildered,' broker Talib Tabatabai told Hallen. 'Why do you want to create enemies? Let us open the way we were.'"
2. Managing Iraq's $13 billion budget: Six gophers pre-selected by the Heritage Foundation. Among those six: One was the daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator. Another was a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children. Neither of those two had a background in accounting.
3. Oversight of Iraq's Healthcare System: James K. Haveman Jr., former community health director when Republican John Engler was Governor of Michigan. Haveman prioritized the scarce resources with: a. a new anti-smoking campaign (you can't make up this stuff), b. ending Iraq's practice of free access to health care, and c. changing the entire drug procurement system, with the intention of limiting the number of prescription drugs available to patients. But no reconstruction funds were ever devoted toward building or repairing emergency rooms or operating theaters.
4. Rehabilitation of Iraq's Police forces: Bernie Kerik (no introduction needed).Upon his arrival in Iraq, Kerik announced his first priority. "I'm here to bring more media attention to the good work on police because the situation is probably not as bad as people think it is."
Finally, we know all this information because of Rajiv Chandrasekaran's diligent reporting for the Washington Post, expanded into his book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City. Our democracy works so long as we have access to professional journalism of this high caliber. Our democracy is diminished when this important information is drowned out by bloviating commentators with unacknowledged personal agendas.
"'It was during that period I realized he wasn't with me,' [State Department expert on international law, Robert] Gifford recalled. 'He didn't listen to anything. He hadn't read anything except his e-mails. I don't think he read a single one of our proposals.'"
"Despite his White House connections, Kerik did not secure funding for the desperately needed police advisers. With no help on the way, the task of organizing and training Iraqi officers fell to U.S. military police soldiers, many of whom had no experience in civilian law enforcement."