You would assume the conservative world would be in an absolute uproar over this. It’s another Obama administration scandal! It’s got prostitutes! And cover-ups! It’s Worse Than Watergate! But there has been an odd silence about this. As of 11 am, it doesn’t seem to have been mentioned at all on the web sites of the big boys, the National Review and Weekly Standard. The reactions from other conservatives seem more amused than outraged (see here, for example). What explains this?
First, a quick tour through the key facets of this story. It’s possible this young man (Jonathan Dach, who was a 25-year-old law student at the time) is telling the truth when he denies that he employed a prostitute, and that when the charges were investigated, they were appropriately set aside. In any case, even if Dach did get such a visit, that’s hardly an earth-shattering government crime, particularly since he wasn’t even an administration employee at the time (he is now), but a volunteer.
However, if there actually was some kind of cover-up, then the original offense becomes far less important. That’s the next allegation: that investigators in the Inspector General’s office of the Homeland Security department were told by their superiors to lay off this part of the investigation because there was an election coming up:
Within the inspector general’s office, investigators and their bosses fought heatedly with each other over whether to pursue White House team members’ possible involvement….Also, the way the White House handled the scandal remains a sore point among rank-and-file members of the Secret Service more than two years later.
Former and current Secret Service agents said they are angry at the White House’s public insistence that none of its team members were involved and its private decision to not fully investigate one of its own — while their colleagues had their careers ruined or hampered.
So people in the Secret Service are angry that some of their own got punished for visiting prostitutes, but Dach didn’t for allegedly doing the same thing. The White House’s counterargument:
Administration officials interviewed by The Post earlier this year said there was no reason to investigate Dach beyond interviews with him and his fellow White House team members and a review of their expense accounts, because he was not a government employee and because prostitution is legal in parts of Colombia, including Cartagena.
One senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said [then-White House counsel Kathryn] Ruemmler believed it would be a “real scandal” if she had sent “a team of people to Colombia to investigate a volunteer over something that’s not a criminal act. . . . That would be insane.”
That’s the White House’s explanation for their part in this: their own investigation into Dach was limited, even perfunctory, but that was appropriate. The more potentially controversial investigation was the one being done by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s office, where we get a disagreement between two former officials over whether the report into the investigation was delayed until after the 2012 election; the lead investigator for the IG’s office in the case alleges Yes; his boss,the acting IG, says No.
There’s a lot more in the story piecing together what actually did or didn’t happen in that Cartagena hotel room, but in sum, here are the big questions:
1. Did a White House volunteer hire a prostitute in Cartegena?
2. Did the White House not investigate question #1 thoroughly enough?
3. Did the DHS IG’s office quash an investigation into question #1?
4. Did anyone else try to influence the IG investigation into question #1?
The liberals commenting on the story so far today seem to think it’s basically a nothing-burger. They doubt anyone in the government would find the story of a 25-year-old volunteer attached to the White House getting a hooker in Cartagena to be such a terrible threat to Barack Obama’s reelection that resources would be mobilized to strangle the story. I doubt many conservatives would agree, simply because conservatives are inclined to believe the worst about anyone and everyone who works for this president. But even they aren’t screaming and yelling about it.
Why? First, there isn’t much of an underlying crime to be angry about. Even the absurdly trumped-up scandals of this administration have something bad that starts them off. In “Fast and Furious,” a Border Patrol agent was killed. In Solyndra, a bankruptcy cost the taxpayers a few hundred million dollars. In Benghazi, four Americans were killed. But here a guy who didn’t actually work for the White House perhaps got a hooker in a place where it’s legal. Not admirable, sure, but not exactly something to be horrified about.
Second there are other important things going on. Scandals grow in slow news environments. Right now, we are not in a slow news environment. There’s an election in a few weeks, we just started a new war, there’s a frightening disease spreading. All that could be combining to limit conservative anger over this.
In the end, the facts will determine whether this ends up being a real scandal, or a somewhat strange story that most people end up forgetting in a year or two. Reporters are trying to figure it all out right now. But in the meantime, if even Barack Obama’s opponents aren’t getting excited about it, the political impact won’t be dramatic.