Joe Conason's Journal

Former Whitewater crank L. Jean Lewis will soon be in charge of preventing Pentagon corruption, and Democrats should be raising hell.

Published September 15, 2003 10:22PM (EDT)

The Bush administration's funny new watchdog Whenever the comeback kid shows up, his enraged pursuers are always close behind. The latest to resurface is L. Jean Lewis, the Whitewater crank who made big national headlines once upon a time. Amazingly, she has been appointed to an important executive position in the Defense Department.

The Bush administration has rewarded various Clinton pursuers from Kenneth Starr's staff with federal patronage, of course. (Brett Kavanaugh and John Bates, two principal authors of the appalling Starr Report, were among the most fortunate veterans of the Clinton jihad, although they were scarcely alone in winning plum jobs in the Justice Department and the White House. It was all part of what Bush spinners used to call "changing the tone.")

But Lewis is very special. Anyone who remembers the dramatic performances she gave before the House and Senate committees probing Whitewater will have to wonder how anyone in Washington would dare offer her a responsible position. As Gene Lyons and I reported in "The Hunting of the President", Lewis proved repeatedly that her relationship with the truth was rather distant, even while under oath -- and she was deeply partisan and incompetent as well. (For those without quick reference to "Hunting" p. 194-98, see this excellent post by Orcinus with a link to Atrios, as well as the Horse.)

The scoop on her new job appears in Newsweek, somewhat ironically under the byline of Michael Isikoff. According to the indefatigable Isikoff, Lewis will join the Pentagon inspector general's office as chief of staff at a salary of $118,000. She told him that top Defense officials interviewed her about her qualifications. That's right: A normally nonpartisan, exceptionally important agency is being turned over to this peculiar lady, who used to peddle "Presidential BITCH" memorabilia, betokening her hatred of Hillary Clinton, from a clerk's desk at the Resolution Trust Corporation in Kansas City. Obviously, she was executive material.

"With 1,240 employees and a budget of $160 million, this office is the largest of its kind in the government," as he reports. "It investigates fraud and audits Pentagon contracts, including the billions of dollars being awarded in Iraq to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel." Hey, maybe that's why the Bush crowd put Lewis in charge of preventing Pentagon corruption. This isn't the kind of office where they want anyone who actually knows how to do the job. But the Democrats should raise hell about this partisan outrage -- especially when we're being asked to turn over billions more for privatized defense functions.
[3:30 p.m. PDT, Sept. 15, 2003]

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