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Friday, January 27, 2006

Mystery of the Disappearing Pictures

It seems the Bush White House has something to hide. Several somethings. And their friends and cronies have gone to great lengths to help them in the cover up.

Josh Marshall has a great piece at TPM regarding the destruction of photographs that existed in the data files of a Republican photographer who did a lot of press and event photos for the White House. And who has apparently deleted pictures that the company had of the Preznit with his good buddy Jack Abramoff.

Josh has done some serious digging on this issue since day one, and ought to be commended for his hard work -- but this find is a true gem. And it smacks of cover up.

At a time when a majority of Americans -- 76% according to the latest ABC/WaPo poll -- believe the White House ought to come clean on its dealings with dirty lobbyists, including Abramoff, the WH spin machine and cover-up team is in high gear, trying to find all photographs of the Preznit with Abramoff and pals.

Bushie's response to all of this has been to stall and deny and flat out claim memory problems.
"I had my picture taken with him, evidently," Bush said at a White House news conference. "I've had my picture taken with a lot of people. Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that I'm a friend with them or know them very well."

"It's part of the job of the president to shake hands ... with people and smile," he said....

Asked if he meets with lobbyists, Bush said, "I try not to." He said that lobbyists sometimes come to the White House, and he has met and thanked them for their help in pushing his agenda.
Wow, how nice. It has nothing to do with these lobbyists being part of the greater Republican political machine, I'm sure. And of course they wouldn't be meeting with Karl Rove or anything while at the WH -- I'm sure the Preznit wouldn't mind releasing those meeting records or anything. Oh, wait, he's already refused to do so. Silly me.

The Preznit has his spokesman, Scott McClellan dodge and weave as well, even though promises were made to reporters that information would be fully provided quite some time ago.

The attempt to spin this as a media fishing expedition isn't working for the WH -- whose veracity has repeatedly come under fire because...erm...they keep saying things that aren't true. (Nukeular weapons in Iraq? Nope. Osama, dead or alive? Well, he's still alive, but we sure as hell don't have him. Uniter not a divider? hahahahaha. Okay, I've made my point.)

According to a report from ABC news, a clear majority of Americans are now seriously questioning the ethics of this Administration. (Maybe the news division should let The Note in on that little secret? They could use a clue or two.) According to ABC:
As things stand, the ethics situation in Washington is not working to Bush's advantage. In advance of his 2006 State of the Union address, 56 percent now disapprove of the way the president is handling ethics in government, up from 49 percent in mid-December.

Beyond disapproval of Bush on ethics, there's been some weakening for the Republicans more broadly. Asked which party they trust more to stand up to lobbyists and special interest groups, just 27 percent of Americans picked the Republicans, down from 34 percent last month. More, 46 percent, preferred the Democrats.
Bush's response to all of this thus far has been to say "he doesn't know Jack." (And the line of the day award goes to Thomas DeFrank and Michael McAuliff of the NYDaily News. You guys made me spew my coffee.)
The better damage-control strategy, these sources argue, is to release the photographs all at once and be done with it. Otherwise, they may surface at an inopportune moment for Bush - like a few days after Tuesday's State of the Union speech, stepping on his message.

"You know they're coming out," said a GOP consultant with close ties to the White House. "The longer we wait, the longer it looks like there's something we don't want anyone to know."

But as Bush made clear, that view hasn't prevailed. "We're not going to throw gas on a politically charged story," one official said.
Maybe Bush operatives should have thought a little harder about what sort of incendiary story would arise from photographs being destroyed. In Washington, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. This Administration ought to have learned that by now, considering the blunder on WMD information and the resulting attempt to cover it up by sliming Valerie Wilson (THAT isn't working out so well in the PR department for Bushie, now is it?). So many examples, so little time.

So who is going to be the first reporter to jump on Josh's discovery? He's already written a great question for the next presser -- no work involved, just throw a little fuel on the fire and watch Scotty run for an extinguisher.

Members of the press need to stand up and call this ridiculous dodge for what it is: patently absurd on its face, considering the President appointed Abramoff to be on his transition team for the Department of the Interior in 2000. The President is being dishonest -- again -- and the WH should not be allowed to continually lie its way around the truth. Josh has done the heavy lifting -- he's got people on the record, names and everything. Just ask the questions that need asking because you've got the access. And it's your job.

If the press doesn't jump on it, maybe the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew are free. At least they did follow-up until the entire mystery was solved. Of course, for those kids, the cocktail weenie addiction hadn't yet set in, had it?