Taking the White House at their Word

For once, I say we take the White House at their word.

This week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began raising questions about the use of RNC email accounts by certain White House staffers.

Rep. Waxman is concerned that the Bush administration might be using those email accounts to shield certain communications from congressional scrutiny. In addition, it appears that the use of these outside email accounts may be a violation of the 1978 Presidential Records Act which requires the White House to maintain records related to the decisions and deliberations of those most closely surrounding the president.

In response to inquiries from the Wall Street Journal, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel had this to say about the outside email accounts:

"These accounts are for political purposes, and they're for staff who might regularly interface with political organizations" such as the RNC, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "It's entirely appropriate for them to have these." The Presidential Records Act has a specific exception for purely political matters that don't relate to official duties. (emphasis added)

So as I said before, we should take the White House at their word on this one. Let's assume that these accounts were only used for matters that White House staffers viewed as purely political matters and that there was no intent to evade the Presidential Records Act.

On Friday, August 18, 2006, Scott Jennings sat down at his computer to write his colleagues at the Justice Department an email about matters relating to the replacement of U.S. Attorneys. If the replacement of U.S. Attorneys was about advancing the cause of justice and good government, he could have easily used his White House computer. However, instead, Mr. Jennings chose to use his RNC email account. For the sake of argument, let's assume that's because the White House policy as articulated by Mr. Stanzel is true, and that Jennings determined that the discussion of the replacement of U.S. Attorneys was "purely a political matter" and therefore was something best communicated via his RNC account.

Notwithstanding all the noise and fury by Attorney General Gonzales, Rove and others within the Bush administration that replacing the U.S. Attorneys was about their poor performance, or about policy disputes, by his actions, Mr. Jennings has revealed the true mindset within the White House at the time.

Their judgments were driven by politics...and that's the most charitable view possible.