Saturday, June 09, 2012

Out of touch and then some







The big news today?  E-mails Brett McGurk sent to Gina Chon.  If it seems familiar, in the US those covering it before 5:00 pm EST yesterday were Gawker, (John Cook),  Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon), DiploPundit kept the issue alive early on as did Peter Van Buren with "McGurk Senate Confirmation Hearing: Do the Emails Matter?," Cryptome published them, and we covered them in "Iraq snapshot" and "'Blue Balls' McGurk faces Senate Foreign Relations..." and "Iraq snapshot".  We covered them here the day before his confirmation hearing.  And though the State Dept admitted to a senator on the Committee that the e-mails were genuine (that is how I found out and why we included it in Tuesday's snapshot) no one wanted to ask questions about it in the hearing.  The e-mails are from 2008 when McGurk, two years into his first marriage, began pursuing an affair with Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal reporter).  McGurk discusses blue balls and masturbation and stresses that then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker should not know about the affair.  As Peter Van Buren has explained, the State Dept does discipline employees for extra-marital affairs.  Van Buren would leave his wife for Chon.  The two have since married.
Gina Chon's not the story here.  She may be at other sites and that's their business.  CJR should certainly be exploring the issue of sleeping with your source.  Here our focus is on McGurk except to point out that any woman who has an affair with a married man who then leaves his wife should be very wary of him being back in the same situation when he first cheated with her.  In other words, history tends to repeat.
Once you said you were in love with me
And maybe you still are
But the passion you once showed me
Now is lost among the stars
And you fancy some new fancy girl
Who'll come and change your life around
But she just turned the corner in her car
-- "Take Me As I Am," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Come Upstairs
What changed?  Why the sudden interest from the press in covering the e-mails?  Because reporters on the State Dept beat pressed State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland about the e-mails. 
QUESTION: On another subject, this nomination of Brett McGurk, is it in trouble? And can you confirm that the State Department is investigating allegations of these emails between him and Ms. Chon of The Wall Street Journal?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the subject of the emails, they're out there for everybody to see. I'm not going to get into emails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife. With regard to Mr. McGurk's nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a Republican administration, a Democratic administration. He is, in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination.
QUESTION: So obviously you're sticking with him. But can you confirm that -- because there are reports -- that the State Department actually has looked into these alleged emails, or the allegations that these might have compromised security or sensitive information?
MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to say on the emails.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
QUESTION: Because, I mean, there are rules for Foreign Service officers to not get into situations where you're blackmailed. There's sort of a sense that you have to act morally. There are these regulations in your guidebooks. And some people have lost security clearances over having extramarital affairs. So I wonder why it is that this doesn't seem to be -- factor at all into your decision in keeping this -- keeping his nomination out there.
MS. NULAND: Again, we consider him uniquely qualified. All of the necessary things were done before his nomination, and we urge the Senate to confirm him.  Jill.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that those emails actually came from the State Department system, in -- within the State Department system?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak about the emails. They're out there for you to look at. They're obviously very much available for anybody to read.
QUESTION: Aren't you investigating how they were leaked? They're from your own system.
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into our internal issues here.
QUESTION: Well, why not? You talk about WikiLeaks all the time. Those were essentially emails.
MS. NULAND: Goes to your usual point, Matt, that we speak about --
QUESTION: What, the lack of consistency?
MS. NULAND: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, okay, great. When -- you said you did -- all the necessary things were done before his nomination. What are those necessary things? Was that like a security clearance and vetting and --
MS. NULAND: All that stuff.
QUESTION: Well, I mean -- no, I -- what are they? I don't know. What has to be done, not just in his case but in any nominee's case?
MS. NULAND: His nomination was managed in the exact -- with the exact same processes that we use for everyone.
QUESTION: Well, okay. What does that mean? I mean, does that mean that there's an FBI check or --
MS. NULAND: I'm going to refer you to the White House for how they do this.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
QUESTION: Just one more on that.
QUESTION: If you do -- if you did do that, are you sharing this with members of Congress who have severe problems with his nomination?
MS. NULAND: We always work with Congress on our nominees, and we're continuing to do that in this case.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that there has been at least one meeting with -- on the specific issues, not on the specific issues that were about the emails, with people on the Hill?
MS. NULAND: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of our conversation with Congress, but in all these nomination procedures, we work with the Hill on any --
MS. NULAND: -- issues that they have as our --
QUESTION: But are you --
MS. NULAND: -- nominees are being reviewed.
QUESTION: But are you aware that this -- that people from the State Department have gone to the Hill and/or have spoken to members of the committee who have raised concerns about these specific issues. And by these specific issues, I don't mean the more specific substantive issues that senator -- people like Senator McCain have raised. I'm talking specifically about the emails. Do you know if they have been -- if this issue has been discussed with people on the Hill?
MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we continue to work with appropriate members and staff on his nomination in support of it, as we do with all nominees, I'm not going to get into details.
"Matt" above is Matthew Lee with the Associated Press.  He reports on it here and avoids mentioning Gina Chon by name.  While I have stated that she is not the issue, I am not going to render her invisible.  I have no desire to include the name of the wife cheated on but while I'm not going to examine Gina Chon's motives or explore ethical issues on her end or quote her in the e-mails, I'm not going to vanish her.  When you enter into a sexual relationship with a high ranking government employee, especially a married one, you're risking exposure.  As a member of the press, that's something Gina Chon understood before she ever went to Iraq.  I mention Lee vanishing her because that's another reason the story's not being covered.
During the Iran-Contra hearings -- a detail Robert Parry and others always ignore -- a journalist was outed (TV journalist) for knowing about what took place and covering it up.  It was in the news cycle for about 2 to 3 hours.  Then the press did what it does best: Protect its own.  I've mentioned the journalists' name before and will again.  But we'll not go there today because I'll hear, "Do you always have to beat up on ___?" from friends at ____'s network.
But a big reason that the e-mails weren't covered was due to the fact that Gina Chon is a member of the press.  As a result, I will be rethinking my policy here for next week.  We're already in a gray area because I'm not big on sex scandals.  (And my family has had their own aired out in the press.) But we didn't cover this as "Cheating husband!"  I wasn't even aware Brett McGurk was married when I learned what the Senate Committee was hearing.  We covered this as: You want to be a surpervisor but you used government time and government equipment to go in search of a bootie call, you then concealed the affair from your supervisor because it was a serious conflict and now you're going to supervise?
I'm glad that McGurk doesn't have a sexaul harassment lawsuit against him, but reading those e-mails -- which are only four years old -- I'm not real sure he's someone who understands work boundaries.
And with no supervisory experience, I do worry that the tone he will set will not be encouraging for women or for their safety.  "Oh come on, boss," you can hear a male staffer telling McGurk, "I just sent her an e-mail about my blue balls.  You know what that's like, e-mailing a woman about your blue balls.  I wrote her about masturbating too because I saw your e-mails and realized that's how someone 'so f**king smooth' does it."  Peter Van Buren notes today, "Readers of my book, We Meant Well, will remember an incident where an innocent romantic email from a male State Department contractor to a female soldier kicked off a major incident that ended up with the contractor being swiftly fired for misuse of the official email system for personal use. If McGurk is allowed to end up as ambassador, that would be only the latest in a long series of double standards of conduct at the State Department. "
This is not a minor issue and how sad, telling and pathetic that neither female senator on the Committee bothered to show for the hearing.
It's not a minor issue.  The State Dept was very lucky with the Iraq War.  How so?  All the Pentagon scandals more than kept the public occupied and the sexual harassment taking place in the State Dept was largely ignored by the public -- and damn well was by Colin Powell and Condi Rice.  This isn't a minor issue.  You don't win a lawsuit in arbitration and find yourself awarded $3 million on a minor issue.
And into this already complicated environment, the White House wants to put a man who can't keep it in his pants?  Married less than 2 years and he can't keep it in his pants?  In a war zone and he can't keep it in his pants?
It's not a minor issue.  Can an Iraqi woman meet with McGurk?  And if she does -- remember social taboos are on the rise in Iraq since the US declared war and put thugs in charge -- will this result in it being assumed she too 'got down' with the 'playa'?   You can not put a man with that reputation in Iraq without asking, "How will this effect Iraqi women?"  The most obvious way is they won't be able to interact with him for fear of how any interaction would be interpreted.  So no Iraqi woman can meet with him one-on-one to share concerns.  That doesn't bother the State Dept?
Well why the hell not.  Iraqi women were sold out under Bully Boy Bush and for all of his pretense otherwise, Barack Obama clearly doesn't give a damn about Iraqi women. 
I would think how this effects over half of the Iraqi population would be of grave concern; however, we've yet to see a White House concerned about Iraqi women since the start of the illegal war.
Huffington Post does a lousy job of covering the story.  We're focusing on issues here.  Can he be successful in management when he has no experience and a record of lying to his superiors and breaking rules and regulations?  We're not being Arianna Huffington in the 90s sniffing through Bill Clinton's briefs.  Maybe that's the only way Arianna and her website know to cover a story?  Sink into the filth?  Or maybe it's just more of her: 'Write a bad blog post so we can say we covered it and we aren't really in the tank for Barack.'  Chris McGreal (Guardian) covers the story seriously and raises real issues.  I don't believe that McGurk passed on classified information but -- as Mike noted last night -- that is a serious concern around Congress currently for other reasons.  My issue is that he's not qualified.  That was the opinion before the e-mails.  He doesn't have the exeprience needed, he doesn't speak Arabic, Iraqiya objects to him, Iraqi women will be left out of the discussions but now someone who just four years ago was breaking the State Dept guidelines is going to be put in charge of the largest US embassy project in the world? 
Chris McGreal explains, "A Republican senator, James Inhofe, cancelled a meeting with McGurk in a sign that unease about the emails could raise problems. Any senator is able to put a hold on the nomination."  Helene Cooper (New York Times) adds, "Mr. Inhofe has not yet put a hold on Mr. McGurk's nomination, an aide said" and quotes the aide, Jared Young, stating, "I don't think we'd say we've reached the decision point yet."  Jared Young tells  Aamer Madhani (USA Today), "Until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk."  In addition to the hiding of an affair, Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes that McGurk "may have been videotaped while engaged in a sex act on the roof of Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace with a different woman."  It's oral sex with him on the receiving end.  And since March when Peter Van Buren published a blind item, everyone has whispered that the blind item about the blow job on top of the Republican Palace was one of Brett McGurk's many sexual adventures in the Green Zone.  Paul Richter has a good report for the Los Angeles Times. Need a video report?  As usual, you can count on Jake Tapper who is able to confirm -- unlike all the other outlets today -- that the e-mails are genuine.  Click here for his video report.   Near the end, Jake Tapper explains, "And, George, even McGurk's allies say now that with these e-mails out there, he will have to answer more questions about this on Capitol Hill."

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