Saturday, April 28, 2007

Standard White House lie - "Clinton did it!"

The players in this little drama are a reporter (Q) and the Press Secretary, Dana Perino (MS. PERINO). The setting is another White House Press Briefing.

This scene started when the reporter asked Ms. Perino about the political briefings to political appointees assigned to federal agencies. The first question was:
Q Okay, on the political briefings, there seems — there’s no shortage of political information out there. Why does the White House feel it’s necessary to give these employees these briefings in the first place?
The White House spokesperson first tried misdirection. Note how she fails to answer the question.
MS. PERINO: I think that’s kind of ridiculous question. I mean, there’s — sorry, I usually don’t say those things, but I do think that that one was. Look, there is nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working.
Kudos to the reporter. Here is the followup.
Q I understand. That’s not an answer, as ridiculous as the question was.
She tries more obfuscation, along with belittling.
MS. PERINO: What, you think that we should just look at the CBS/New York Times poll and make our decisions based on that?
This is followed by the reporter trying to frame a more specific question so as to get a real answer, with Ms. Perino doing what I would have to call filibustering. Her responses are a little more closely related to the question than reading the telephone book would be, but not much.
Q It’s 20 briefings –

MS. PERINO: Jim would agree.

Q Well, I’m trying to get to the motivation for this, and it’s 20 briefings –

MS. PERINO: The motivation is to provide people information.

Q But why? Why do they need this information –

MS. PERINO: Why are you asking me these questions? You’re asking information, as well.

Q No, no, but –

MS. PERINO: My point was that you’re asking –

Q Was there any intent to try to tell people that they need to do something about the election, and to take some action?

MS. PERINO: These are information — they’re informational briefings about the political landscape.
Clearly Ms. Perino is wriggling like an eel caught on a fishing line trying to avoid any substantive answer. But she actually used the word "intent" from the question in her answer, and the reporter jumped on this as a possible way to pin her down. So he expands on the idea of "intent" in his next followup.
Q Okay, so there was — there was no intent to do that? Who — did they ask for the briefings, or was it the White House that decided they wanted to give these briefings?
Ms. Perino seems to have decided that this was a way out of her dilemma. Pure non-answers weren't working, and both she and the reporter knew it. Maybe a different type of non-answer?
MS. PERINO: I think it sort of goes both ways. I do know that political appointees around the government — I used to work at an agency, and you are interested in — the reason that you’re here working for the President is that you want to support his policies and his agenda, and so it’s good to get information from time to time.
It was a slightly different tack, so the reporter riffs off of her response to throw in a new question.
Q Well, who’s idea — it was the White House idea, initially, or was it the agencies?
To which Ms. Perino responded with what must have seemed safe as she said it, but is simply a lie.
MS. PERINO: I think that these briefings — well, I know the Clinton administration had similar briefings. Where did they originate? I don’t know. I couldn’t give you a date.
Sure she doesn't know when they originated. She is dreaming it up on the spot. But it effectively closes down that line of questioning for the moment because no one at the Press gaggle could do effective real-time fact-checking.

These meetings on government property were clearly violations of the Hatch Act which has been in effect since 1939. It is a basic part of the mechanism of governing this nation. Either the members of the Bush administration knew about the Hatch Act and knew they were violating it, or they did not know and refused to listen when someone told them about it. They were knowingly violating the law. But their spokesperson, Ms. Perino, cannot stand up and say that "Oops. We goofed." This administration does not say that.

Lies are better than admissions of crimes. Ask any modern Republican. Ask Rove. Of course, he'll lie, but ask him anyway.

[Note: the transcript is from Think Progress.]

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