No Defense for Sandy Berger
Published on Friday, July 23, 2004 by the Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)
No Defense for Sandy Berger

Democrats in Congress, particularly Democrats who oppose the Bush administration's misguided war with Iraq, make a huge mistake when they attempt to defend Sandy Berger, who served as former President Bill Clinton's national security adviser and who now stands accused of stealing and destroying classified materials on terrorism.

Berger has for many years been an atrocious player in American politics. He tried to get former President Clinton to launch a war with Iraq in the late 1990s, using "evidence" every bit as flimsy as that employed by the Bush administration in 2003. He has been a Democratic apologist for some of the Bush administration's worst abuses. And, as a senior adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign, he pressured the presumptive Democratic nominee to echo the Bush administration line on maintaining the occupation of Iraq.

In 2003, when Berger was preparing to testify before the national commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he spent roughly 30 hours reviewing classified materials in a secure reading room. Berger was seen placing documents in a leather portfolio and stuffing papers in his jacket and pants.

Berger claims his removal of the documents, which may have contained material harmful to his own reputation, was an "honest mistake." Yet, when National Archives officials demanded that Berger return the documents and paperwork, he produced only some of them and then claimed to have "inadvertently" destroyed the rest. Berger's actions were shocking. And his defenses do not sound credible.

Berger should be prosecuted, just as anyone in the Bush administration who attempted to undermine the work of the 9/11 commission should be prosecuted. Yet some of the Democrats who have been most critical of Bush administration abuses have tried to come up with excuses for Berger. By rushing to the partisan barricades in defense of Berger, they are making a big mistake.

While it may be true that Republicans are ginning up the Berger controversy at this point in order to cover for the misdeeds of members of their own party, Democrats should not waste an ounce of energy defending the former Clinton aide.

In fact, Democrats should be celebrating the fact that he has been forced to resign as an adviser to Kerry. The further Berger is from the Kerry campaign, the more likely it will be to take responsible stands on the war in Iraq in particular, and on national security in general.

Copyright 2004 The Capital Times