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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gannongate, Part 1: Should We Even Care Who Left the Gate Open?

The Bloogeyman has thus far refrained from jumping into the Gannongate fray. For anyone new to the story - a journalist, Jeff Gannon, for conservative news source Talon News basically got a day pass to White House press conferences every day for the past two years and liked to lob easy questions to the press secretary and even the president. Also, it seems that this “journalist” had no prior journalistic experience, was using a fake name, and was operating a gay hooker service. Whew. Despite the intriguing possibilities, initially the Bloogeyman was not so interested in this story for several reasons:

1) A person’s private life, gay or otherwise, is none of my business

2) This story did not seem to necessarily have any bearing on public policy

3) This story did not seem to have “legs”; it seemed like a story that would be ignored pretty soon – anyone remember Harken Energy?

However, the more that the Bloogeyman thought about this whole surrealistic episode, the more he realized that there were reasons that this story is important:

1) A person’s private life, especially a public figure’s private life, becomes public business when that person is engaged in criminal activity

2) It is apparent that one or more of the administration members is a “political hypocrite” in that while publicly supporting a conservative gay policy, the person was personally engaging in activities he professed to oppose

3) This story is of interest both people on the Right and the Left: Any Right leaning person that has supported this administration’s policy regarding homosexuals has to feel uncomfortable that perhaps this administration is not sincere in its policy platform; Any Left-leaning person feels that any political hypocrisy needs to be exposed to inform the public about the administration’s true platform. Because both members of the Right and the Left have an interest in investigating this story to the fullest extent, this story probably has “legs”

Let’s talk about what we know and what we can deduce. We know that Jeff Gannon (real name, James Guckert) started showing up to White House press briefings in early 2003 using a “day pass”. He was frequently called upon during the press briefings (and even called upon by President Bush, who called him by his pseudonym “Jeff”, ahead of dozens of other reporters from larger, well established news agencies), and seemed to always offer up “soft-ball” questions. For example, here’s the question he asked President Bush:

Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work - you've said you are going to reach out to these people - how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

We know that he went to the invitation-only White House press Christmas party in 2003 and 2004. He also allegedly had access to exclusive or even classified information. Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves- this is not a security issue, personal, executive, or national. There was never any danger to the President, White House, or to the nation – even the classified documents that he allegedly saw were shown to him by someone in the White House – that’s not a security breach, that’s a deliberate leak. Regardless of the level of background checks the White House admits to doing on Gannon, I’m pretty sure that someone who walks in and out of the White House every day has been thoroughly checked out by the Secret Service and the FBI. People don’t get in the White House 20 feet away from the President without the Secret Service knowing who they are.

But that leads us down a more fascinating path. If the White House knew about Gannon’s background - his pseudonym, his lack of journalism experience, his gay hooker service – why was he given a daily pass? Sure, maybe the White House was looking for a shill to ask them easy questions (when’s the last time you saw a politician sit down for a “hardball” interview - half of the time they know the questions in advance), but then why not get some guy with no background story and no baggage? No, if you just want a shill, there are a million guys out there – but, if you want a thrill, there’s only Gannon. And don’t give me this “oh, maybe some low-level staffer just put through some paperwork and got Gannon in”, with a background like Gannon’s any Secret Service or FBI file would go directly to the Chief of Staff and probably to the President himself before he was even let within 100 yards of the White House. Yes, the White House knew who he was, hooker and all, and wanted him there. The hard truth is: Jeff Gannon was in the White House because he was a gay hooker, not in spite of being a gay hooker.

In the next part, the Bloogeyman will discuss what this all means and why this story will continue to have legs...