Now the backtracking begins.

January 27, 2001 11:28 a.m.

Now the backtracking begins.

A few Clintonites, back from weeks in the Bahamas or drowning their sorrows in gin or whatever, have stepped forward to ask the White House’s new occupants to put up or shut up. And there seems to be more shutting up than putting up.

Read the Post and CNN stories to get the details. But basically it seems like all we’re talking about is removal of ‘w’s from the keyboards of some computers by a few of Al Gore’s twenty-something staffers and the posting of a few gag signs like “The Office of Strategerie.”

As the Post quoted some Clinton staffers as saying:

Former West Wing officials said they agreed that these pranks, which they attributed primarily to aides to former vice president Al Gore, were in questionable taste. But they said these lapses were a far cry from property destruction and an exception to the efforts the Clinton team generally made for a smooth transition.

Now let me try out my own alternative narrative of this story and do let me know if I’m far off the mark …

PART I: New administration comes into office and finds a some isolated gags and pranks left for them by the departing administration – a few gag signs, removal of some ‘w’s from keyboards. They take these and systematically exaggerate or fabricate all manner of other alleged infractions including widespread cutting of utility wires, leaving of pornographic material, lewd graffiti on White House office walls, theft of miscellaneous property, over-turned desks, vandalism of miscellaneous office property by gluing things shut, ‘trashing’ of offices, leaving of computer viruses on White House computers, and so on.

PART II: These stories are then aggressively leaked to the press by the new occupants of the White House (including senior staffers in the new administration) – all on a non-attribution basis. The White House press secretary elliptically confirms most of the story but couches it in self-serving statements to the effect that the new president wants to look to the future and not the past and will not support any prosecutions for the alleged offenses.

PART III: The whole scenario rather transparently fits into the new administration’s spin about the difference between it and the former administration – with lush evocations of pettiness, immaturity, obscenity, and lawlessness. But, surprisingly, the city’s porcine political press takes the ball and runs with it, without forcing any of the leakers to speak on the record, provide systematic documentation of the alleged infractions, or even provide physical evidence to document the offenses.

PART IV: Story begins to hemorrhage and then collapse for lack of evidence. Press moves on to next story. No questions asked.

Am I missing something here?

I asked before why the DC political press let’s itself get led around by the nose like this. But, honestly, I already know.

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