quasi in rem

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Unemployed former Senate STAFFER challenges sitting Senator to debate on memogate issue.

Manuel Miranda does not have a reputation for being a very personable guy, and this challenge seems to bear that point well.

I will let the petulant Mr. Miranda speak for himself in this challenge he writes in the Hill today...

So what made reading political documents left unprotected on an open server, which were not confidential under Senate rules, wrong? Except for lack of statutory protection for congressional staff, what made it different than an ordinary whistleblower situation — seeing something not intended for your eyes?
For many observers, Memogate was not about reading opposition papers; it was about the ethics of senators showing no loyalty down. If the greatest and perhaps oldest ethic is “do no harm,” how ethical were staffs and senators who placed subordinates needlessly in jeopardy? What ethical judgment can be made of those who chose expediency over ethical justice?
What about the reading of documents? For Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), it was criminal. But years spent prosecuting cow-tippers in Vermont doesn’t train a legal mind. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said consistently that it wasn’t criminal. That may relieve his guilt, but it doesn’t give much comfort. No Republican senator has sponsored more laws later held unconstitutional than Hatch. Fortunately, in this case, the Supreme Court disagrees with Leahy
If not a Senate rule, what then? Not a legal ethic. There is no attorney-client confidentiality in Congress. The Code of Ethics for Government Service states plainly that government employees owe no duty to persons or parties. Staff works for the people and for Congress. This is why it is said that we are “assigned” to particular offices.
Ethics is worthy of debate, and so I challenge Sen. Hatch to debate me publicly on this issue and prove to folks in Utah and Washington that 30 years later he has not come to abuse power or to hide in Senate corners.

I am sure that Senator Hatch is just dying to debate this guy. What a career boost it will be for the Senator!

It strikes me, based on the tenor of this piece and prior writings and interviews, that Mr. Miranda has extremely poor interpersonal skills. And even worse political skills.

If, as a Senate Staffer, you discover that you have clandestine access to the Democrats files, you really have two choices:

1. The Machiavelli Way:

Slowly and over time download the files and feed off the information unnannounced for years, giving the information from time to timeto your bosses without telling them the source and looking like a prescient political genius all the while. This would have been excellent in this case.

Senator Hatch could have gone down on the Senate Floor during the 30 hour filibuster and expounded how the Democrats seemed to have been delaying nominations in order to disrupt decisions in affirmative action cases in the Sixth Circuit. Because it was true, the Democrats could not have responded! It would have been great!

2. The Abe Lincoln Way:

Leave them alone. It is not yours. It belongs to some one else. tell them that their servers are open. Realize that if you can acces their servers, they can probably access yours and have been doing so for years. The "don;t touch other people's stuff" lesson was taught in kindergarten. Maybe Miranda missed that day.

Instead he chose number 3:

Steal, ahem, appropriate the memos and then feed them to the press to create your own personal buzz and small cult of personality.

Such a stupid move. He is now villified by both sides of the political aisle and the memos are to politically hot to touch. Even though they are gold for the President's cause. Now Miranda has done almost as much as Schumer in preventing the President from getting his judges confirmed.

The point of Mr. Miranda's article seems to be that ethics ends where politics begins, something which Richard Clarke testified to earlier this year in front of the 9/11 commission. The two men seem to have alot in common, a desire for self promotion, an unending belief in their mental superiority, and a complete inability to recognize their own intrapersonal failings and lack of political savvy.

When you are extremely talented at politics, the former President Clinton comes to mind, it is easy to stretch that line betweeen ethics and politics all the way up to and beyond the breaking pooint. But when you appear to have no talent at politics, it is better to tread the ethical path. Otherwise you just end up out on the street, without a job, and a history of choosing the wrong path when the rubber meets the road.


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