The “Senator from Sandy Berger” Who Ain’t
© Jack Cashill
f all the sweet spots on Tuesday’s electoral map none was sweeter than Pennsylvania. There, Republican Pat Toomey held off hard-charging Democrat Joe Sestak to win the Senate seat previously held by the politically transgendered Arlen Spector.
Had Sestak been elected he would have been as indebted to former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger as Harry Truman had been to his patron, Kansas City’s “Boss” Tom Pendergast. For all his virtues, Truman paid his dues. When, for instance, Pendergast forces prevailed in a 1934 election thanks to four murders and scores of beatings, the “Senator from Pendergast” denounced the ensuing vote fraud trials on the Senate floor.
If you recall, the story aired in May 2010 that former President Bill Clinton had tried to persuade Sestak from challenging the incumbent Spector in a Democratic primary. I don’t believe that for a minute. Sestak was too useful.
He would surely have paid his dues to the sock-stuffing, secret-stealing Berger, and the dues paid could have been much more consequential than those Truman paid to Pendergast.
For those of short memories, Berger is a piece of work. He topped off his eight years of skullduggery in the Clinton White House by swiping top-secret documents from the National Archives in 2003, almost assuredly to cover Clinton missteps on the path to 9-11.
As proposed punishment for the theft, The Department of Justice slapped his wrist with a $50,000 fine and a three-year loss of security clearance. The senior Department of Justice attorneys managing the case--Howard Sklamberg, John Dion and Bruce Swartz—were all held over from the Clinton administration.
Although Dion had no obvious record of federal contributions, Swartz and Sklamberg had only contributed to Democratic candidates in federal races. Curiously, Dion and Swartz were the same attorneys working feverishly with Patrick Fitzgerald to unearth that evil Republican—hopefully Karl Rove—who had allegedly blown CIA agent Valerie Plame’s imagined cover. (Her absurd movie bio, Fair Game, will be coming soon to a theater near you).
At the time no congressman was more concerned about genuine issues of national security, especially Clinton-era mischief, than 10-term Republican Curt Weldon in suburban Philadelphia.
In 2006, the newly resurrected Berger launched a campaign to take Weldon out. His weapon of choice was a winsome, political newcomer named Joe Sestak, who had fortuitously lived in Weldon’s district some thirty years prior. Sestak was altogether available. The former vice admiral had recently been forced into retirement for what the U.S. Navy charitably called “poor command climate.”
In March of that year, Berger, now chairman of the “global strategy firm” Stonebridge Resources, held a major DC fundraiser for Sestak. Much of the Clinton shadow government was in attendance, a few of whom, like Berger, came under their own clouds.
One was John Deutch, formerly director of central intelligence. Deutsch had signed a criminal plea agreement in connection with his mishandling of national secrets a day before being pardoned by the outgoing President Clinton.
Another interesting contribution came in from Mary O. McCarthy, recently dismissed from the CIA, reportedly for failing a polygraph on leaked classified information in regards to CIA prisons overseas.
Before the campaign was through, Clinton insiders would enlist Stonebridge’s Director of Communications to serve as Sestak's campaign spokesperson, summon former president Clinton to rally the troops, and finally call in the federales.
Their reason Berger and friends supported Sestak was transparent even to the local media. “A Sestak victory,” observed the Delco Times early in the campaign, “would muzzle a Republican congressman who blames Clinton for doing irreparable harm to America’s national security during the 1990s.”
Muzzler-in-chief was the ex-president himself. On Sunday, September 24, 2006, on FOX News with Chris Wallace, a famously angry and defensive Bill Clinton mentioned only one other Republican than George Bush by name.
“A three-star admiral,” he announced out of nowhere, “who was on my National Security Council staff, who also fought terror, by the way, is running for the seat of Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania.”
Without meaning to, Clinton also suggested why the war on Weldon was so important. For postmodernists like Clinton, those in power have the ability to impose their “narrative” on those without power and call it truth.
To preserve his version of events leading up 9/11 he had dispatched Berger to the National Archives, at the risk of Berger’s career and reputation, to edit the official record.
Still, despite Clinton’s call-out on Fox and an appearance in the contested district, Weldon hung on to the lead. That would change.
On October 13, Greg Gordon of the liberal McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau broke a powerful and damning story, namely that the Justice Department was investigating whether Weldon had traded his influence for “lucrative” lobbying contracts for his daughter.
Gordon referred to “two sources,” both anonymous. One he described as “a federal law enforcement official.” The second he did not describe at all. The source of the leak remains unknown, but the information had been housed in the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, the home of Sklamberg et al.
Although Gordon conceded, “It is possible at this stage of the investigation that nothing will come of it,” this uncertainty did not stop the McClatchy Newspapers from blasting the anonymous leak nationwide.
For Weldon, things got ugly quickly. On Monday morning, October 16th, the FBI raided the homes of Weldon’s daughter and a friend, allegedly for fear that documents would be destroyed if they did not do so. The leak prompted this very public raid.
By noon of that same day, a group of nearly twenty Democratic activists were protesting outside Weldon's district office in Upper Darby, carrying matching signs that read, "Caught Red-Handed." This too had to be coordinated.
On November 7, Sestak overcame a seven-point deficit in polls taken just before the leaks to win with 56% of the vote. To this day, Weldon has yet to be charged with anything.
In the poetic justice department, which is about the only justice available to Weldon, Republican Patrick Meehan, a prosecutor himself, recaptured the open House seat abandoned by Sestak with 55 percent of the vote.
As to the always charming Sestak, in his humble defense, he took out the sepulchral Spector and gave a gracious concession speech. He is not done yet.
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