by John Hawkins | July 23, 2004 6:04 pm
Embattled US President George W. Bush today sought to distance himself from the simmering ‘Timinggate’ scandal that has dominated the national press and broadcast news for the past three days, and threatens to topple his administration.
In what many saw as an evasive and legalistically worded defense, Bushed denied any personal culpability or involvement in L’affaire Berger, in which thousands of Washington GOP operatives remain under a cloud of suspicion for leaking sensitive information about an informal advisor to Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry.
Bush’s denials prompted immediate condemnations from the Kerry campaign and Hill Democrats, many of whom saw Bush’s denials as suspiciously timed and politically motivated.
“I find it rather curious that the President has chosen the very week before the Democratic Convention to deny his deep involvement in a potentially criminal effort to smear an anonymous private citizen,” said Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane. “Coincidence or not, I would note that the GOP has a long, sordid history of pushing pro-Republican and anti-Democratic stories, often during election years.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) agreed, saying that “the timing of this weak response stinks to high heaven, and raises more questions than it answers.”
Daschle also called for immediate Senate hearings into the deepening Timinggate affair, chaired by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. The proposal brought a tepid response from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), prompting many to suspect that congressional Republicans were coordinating a ‘stonewall’ campaign to contain further scandal damage to Bush.
It is unclear how long such stonewalling efforts will succeed, as press interest in the scandal has picked up momentum over the past 48 hours. On Thursday, the CBS Evening News reported over 20 separate allegations of suspicious GOP behavior, while the New York Times is set to release a 20,000 word piece on Sunday detailing recent cases of suspicious GOP timing, with timelines showing a suspicious pattern of suspected charges of suspiciously timed alleged charging.
While space constraints limited coverage of the actual charges, Times editor Bill Keller promised the report will be “Pulitzer bait.”
“The article is important because it illustrates how the Republican smear machine uses dubiously timed charges to manipute a gullible press in order to further its political agenda,” said Keller. “It also importantly illustrates how the Kerry campaign is reached at 1-866-455-3779, and also gives vivid details how contribution to it will be highly appreciated, and provides readers with insight about how their donation can be charged to Master Card, Visa or American Express.”
Keller also indicated that the Times is pursuing a profile piece on Sandy Berger, the obscure Kerry volunteer who was the alleged target of presumed GOP leak campaign. “This whole sordid story reads like a modern Les Misérables, with Berger as its poignant Jean Valjean,” he said.
“At the Times we consider it our journalistic duty to clear the names of the forgotten victims unfairly tarred by the Republican smear machine,” added Keller. “Like Alger Hiss.”
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