The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that White House spokesman "Scott McClellan ... would not say with whom former lobbyist Jack Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House," and that's the end of the story? CJR Daily, among others, notes the curious lack of curiosity among so many news outlets. The blog of the Columbia Journalism Review noted a Knight Ridder story, and a brief piece in USA Today reporting that Democrats had sent President Bush a letter worried that Abramoff "may have had undue and improper influence within your administration." But CJR Daily wants more.
[I]t's hard to read these scattered few articles without concluding that this stonewalling points to some kind of secret. For one thing, Abramoff and Karl Rove are old friends from their days heading the College Republicans. Then there's this buried bit in the Knight Ridder piece: According to the AP, "Abramoff and his associates had nearly 200 contacts with the White House during Bush's first 10 months in office." (Emphasis added.) That's a lot of contacts, and the number alone suggests that something more was discussed than just keeping that menorah polished for Hanukkah.
There has been some scratching around the edges. MSNBC's Hardball has confirmed "that [Grover] Norquist helped Abramoff bring at least two tribal chief clients into the White House to meet President Bush four years ago." Anti-tax activist Norquist and Abramoff are also old friends from their days as college Republicans.
But as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman notes, "It's interesting, though, that Scott McClellan has announced that the White House, contrary to earlier promises, won't provide any specific information about contacts between Mr. Abramoff and staff members.
So I have a question for my colleagues in the news media: Why isn't the decision by the White House to stonewall on the largest corruption scandal since Warren Harding considered major news?