The following letter details Kerry campaign questions as to whether Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie orchestrated the Sandy Berger investigation leak.
To: Interested Parties
From: The Kerry Campaign
RE: CHENEY STRIKES BACK???
DID VICE-PRESIDENT CHENEY AND RNC CHAIR GILLESPIE ORDER A POLITICAL HIT FROM THE U.S. CAPITOL?
The timing of the Berger leak has been criticized by Republican elders like David Gergen as being particularly suspicious given the fact that the 9/11 Commission is poised to release its report on Thursday. But the argument that the timing was politically motivated and coordinated by the White House was just made stronger by some very disturbing reports about Dick Cheney and Ed Gillespie.
Halliburton Cheney and Enron Ed Gillespie were reportedly spotted on Tuesday meeting with Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch. After that lunch, Senators Saxby Chambliss, Gordon Smith, and Rick Santorum, among others, launched a scurrilous effort to smear the Kerry Campaign by making the absurd argument that Berger gave classified documents to the campaign to use in a port security speech. Were they in fact at the lunch? What happened at that lunch? What was it that Cheney and Gillespie said?
If true, the fact that the White House has Cheney coordinating a political attack at a time when the 9/11 report is coming out with recommendations on how to improve the nation's security speaks volumes about the Bush approach to governing. The timing of this leak suggests that the White House is more concerned about protecting its political hide than hearing what the Commission has to say about strengthening our security.
(Interestingly, Chambliss and Cornyn are part of a G.O.P attack-squad that will be going to the Democratic Convention next week to try and keep up the Bush smear effort. The team also includes Norm Coleman and Mitch McConnell.)
WHEN THE HEAT IS ON, BUSH TEAM USES NATIONAL SECURITY FOR POLITICAL COVER. Today wasn't the first time the Bush White House has used the "leak" as a political tactic. The Bush team declassified key national security memos to disparage 9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick when Ashcroft testified before the Commission. When former Bush terrorism czar Richard Clarke dared criticize the White House's efforts on terrorism, the White House immediately declassified a memo supporting their efforts to disparage Clarke.
When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gave an unflattering portrait of Bush, the Treasury Department announced it was launching an investigation into whether a classified document might have been shown during the TV show. A grand jury is investigating whether anyone at the White House illegally disclosed the identity of a covert CIA agent.
TALKING POINT COORDINATION: The Bush-Cheney Campaign clearly had talking points out to their surrogates on Tuesday. This is what their henchmen were saying right after the lunch with Gillespie and Cheney (note the similarities):
SANTORUM: "Right after the documents were taken, John Kerry held a photo op and attacked the president on port security," said Rick Santorum, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania. "The documents that were taken may have been utilized for that press conference." [REUTERS 7/20/04]
SMITH: Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said there's a "curious connection" between the documents' removal and a Kerry press conference attacking Bush on port security issues. [Fox News 7/20/04, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,126358,00.html]
CHAMBLISS: "I don't know what happened to these documents after they were put in Mr. Berger's pants, but it's been reported in the press that these documents related to homeland security and our airports and seaports and it's very interesting to note that those are two areas where Sen. Kerry has been critical of the Homeland Security Department." [Fox News 7/20/04, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,126358,00.html]
HASTERT: "It is my understanding that Mr. Berger shoved this classified information into his clothing to smuggle them out of the National Archives." [http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=134-07202004]
POLLING FREEFALL: The President's approval on terrorism has gone down from 67 percent in January to about 50 percent today. Bush has bet his presidency on the terrorism issue and the fact that Kerry has proven himself to be the better candidate on national security has got the Republicans going nuts. After an unprecedented $80 million negative campaign, you'd think it would tough for the Bush team to get any more negative. But today's events prove that even the Bush team's desperation can reach new depths.