Oh dear, I'm afraid the unthinkable has happened.
"Serious and far-reaching" malfeasance has been alleged by congressional investigators against one of Mr. Bush's top appointees. And what's more, say the watchdogs, the gentleman in question -- Howard J. Krongard, the State Department's inspector general -- has "effectively become a political defender of the administration rather than, as his job is meant to be, a studiedly neutral overseer of its spending and practices."
Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, is leading the curious charge, claiming there are cracks in the facade of this fine, Republican-administration model of integrity. He further charges the cracks have formed, of all things, in and around the administration's once-presumed splendidly handled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- its foreign versions of Katrina-like management.
Poor Mr. Waxman, trying to make a federal case out of this minor, even negligible, affair, while showing his prosecutorial amateurism. He alleges, for example, that Mr. Krongard's office is "dysfunctional," yet goes on to charge that Mr. Krongard seems to think he occupies his office chiefly "to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment."
Yes? What am I missing?
I quote the inspector general's investigator: "One consistent element in these allegations," which, by the way, come from evidence provided by Krongard's own staff, "is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of U.S. taxpayers."
So far, everything seems to be in order. But continued Mr. Waxman, "Your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies."
Let's see. Obstruction of justice, censorship and non-cooperation with legitimate law enforcement. I really am missing Mr. Waxman's point. Is he bucking for Mr. Krongard's promotion? Perhaps a presidential Medal of Freedom?
Krongard is exceedingly worthy, for as Waxman notes, after shelling out more than $3.6 billion in U.S. taxpayers' money to private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the non-inspecting inspector general has "refused to send any investigators to those countries to pursue investigations into wasteful spending or procurement fraud and ha[s] concluded no fraud investigations relating to the contracts." As I said, so far, so good.
Furthermore, according to Mr. Waxman, Krongard has balled up a Justice Department investigation into wasteful and fraudulent practices surrounding the spanking-new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, "and followed highly irregular procedures in exonerating the prime contractor, First Kuwaiti Trading Co., of charges of labor trafficking." The only news there is that the Justice Department was actually investigating someone other than a Democrat, but let's move on.
In a transparently desperate stretch, Waxman broadened his accusations against Mr. Krongard, claiming he has "interfered with a continuing investigation into the conduct of Kenneth Tomlinson, the head of Voice of America, by passing information about the inquiry to Mr. Tomlinson."
Tomlinson's sin, according to Waxman? "In that investigation, State Department investigators have found that Mr. Tomlinson had used his office to run a 'horse racing operation' and had improperly put a friend on the payroll."
Now here was a man, who, having once labored mightily to weed out unpatriotic and liberal bias at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was merely maximizing his well-deserved emoluments in a kind of retirement at the Voice of America -- acting the small entrepreneur, running a little business on the side and padding a little payroll. When a government man can't follow graft-virtuoso George Washington Plunkitt's veiled advice -- "I seen my opportunities, and I took 'em" -- without some do-gooder congressman interfering, well, I just don't know what this country is coming to.
But Mr. Krongard knows. And he was only doing his best, bringing it to us in all its Bush-administration splendor.