Good Old Fashioned Thievery
In these days of back-room corruption, secret bargains of real estate-for-defense contracts, and war profiteering, it's refreshing to see someone in the Bush Administration sticking to the traditional values of robbing department stores:
There’s no quicker way to get a smirk in Washington than to leave a $161,000-a-year White House job, without having something new, and say you're doing it to spend more time with your family. That's what Claude A. Allen, President Bush’s domestic policy adviser, told his bosses before he resigned in February. And that's what the White House told the press when his departure was announced three days after Bush had released his new budget and Allen, one of the administration’s most senior African Americans, had told reporters, "The safety net is tight and strong." The White House threw him a farewell reception in the Roosevelt Room, with family and staff enjoying soft drinks and desserts. White House officials and reporters were abuzz about what might be "the real reason" for Allen's departure: Was he protesting something in the budget? Was he running for office?
It turns out that Allen, a 45-year-old father of three who is a nationally prominent conservative, knew that he was under investigation by police in suburban Montgomery County, Md., where he lives. He was arrested Thursday and charged with "theft" and "theft scheme" following a bizarre incident at a Target store that detectives allege was part of a year-long spree of fraudulent refunds at Target and Hecht’s stores that netted him more than $5,000 in credits to his credit cards. "He would buy items, take them out to his car, and return to the store with the receipt," a police statement said. "He would select the same items he had just purchased, and then return them for a refund." The police said that in 25 incidents during 2005, Allen "obtained refunds for items ranging from clothing, a Bose theater system, stereo equipment, and photo printer to items valued only at $2.50." [...]
The Montgomery County police said that the incident for which Allen was charged occurred on Jan. 2, at a Target in Gaithersburg, when the loss prevention manager spotted a suspicious man. "He was observed in the store with an empty Target bag in a shopping cart," the statement says. "The man was then seen selecting merchandise throughout the store and placing items in the Target bag. He put additional items in his cart. The man then went to guest services where he produced a receipt and received a refund for the items he had just selected from the store shelves. After receiving the refund he left the store without paying for the additional merchandise in the shopping cart. He was apprehended by the store employee."
That someone in the White House is a kleptomaniac is, sadly, not surprising. That he was stealing at the expense of Target rather than the American taxpayer is something we can all get behind. I see this as a way for the Administration to reverse those poll numbers. "We're not stealing from YOU anymore, we're only stealing printers!"
Allen is, for what it's worth, one of the most hardcore of social conservatives. You know, the kind of people who like to moralize about everyone else's lives, who want to legislate your private life? Yeah, one of them. He was the press secretary to Jesse Helms in the 1980s, where during a campaign he said the Democratic opponent was vulnerable because of his links to the "queers," and when questioned afterwards he said he just meant "odd, out of the ordinary, unusual."
Here's the part that will set the White House press corpse into a feeding frenzy: the Prez and his aides apparently knew about this for a month. Here's their amazing explanation, from the TIME article:
White House press secretary Scott McClellan immediately began giving reporters a detailed account of what Bush’s aides knew, and when. McClellan said that the night of the January 2 incident at Target, Allen called White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who told Allen to talk to White House Counsel Harriet Miers. "He assured them that it was a misunderstanding," McClellan told TIME. "The way he explained it to Harriet was that he was returning some merchandise and that there was confusion with his credit cards because he had moved a number of times." McClellan said Allen received the benefit of the doubt because "there was nothing in his prior history that we were aware of—he had been through a number of background checks."
McClellan said that a few days later, Allen came back to Card and Miers and "told them that he had been looking at leaving because of his family situation—he had been putting in long hours, he wanted to spend more time with his family and he thought the best thing to do would be to resign so that he could do that." Allen was working on some of the initiatives Bush would be talking about in his State of the Union address on Jan. 31, particularly the education element of the president's new competitiveness plan. "So he thought a good time to transition would be after the State of the Union," McClellan said. The going-away party was Feb. 16, and Allen's last day at the White House was Feb. 17. McClellan said Card told Bush about the planned departure in early February, when Allen had essentially given two weeks' notice. Card told the President about the Target incident at that time, McClellan said. Bush was in the White House residence when his aides started getting calls about the arrest Friday night, and the President was informed then.
"If the allegations are true," Bush said Saturday morning, "Claude Allen did not tell my Chief of Staff and legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing. ... And my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment that—if it's true—that we were not fully informed. But it was also one—shortly thereafter, I felt really sad for the Allen family."
As usual, you have to make a choice in looking at this situation: The White House is either lying or incompetent. Either they had no problem with a shaky excuse from a shoplifter caught red-handed, or they knew and tried to hush it up as fast as possible. Large groups of the American public have always chosen "lying," but increasingly, even conservatives are opting for "incompetent." Digby sums it up:
First male prostitutes in the white house press room and now shoplifters in the president's inner circle. The vice president shoots an old man in the face. To say nothing of the indicted and soon to be indicted perjurers and corrupt GOP congressmen and Senators.
These are the people who are asking the nation to trust them with unfettered executive power because they are protecting the country. OK.
Nobody's buying this shit anymore. On every issue, big and small, relevant or not, incompetence is the defining feature of this Presidency.
UPDATE: Speaking of Christian conservatives behaving badly, Thomas Kinkade, who makes those God-awful "paintings of light" that I've had the misfortune to see in many a hotel room, has been accused of defrauding his business partners and letting 'er rip on cartoon statues:
In sworn testimony and interviews with The Times, some ex-dealers have accused Kinkade — whose dreamily inspirational limited-edition prints are steeped in Christian-oriented themes of faith and family values — of ruining them financially while enriching himself and his business associates.
They and others also described incidents in which an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried and Roy; cursed a former employee's wife who came to his side when he fell off a barstool; fondled a startled woman's breasts at a signing party; and urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.
Hey, at least he wasn't at some left-wing cappuccino-homo store, he was at Disneyland!
It's funny that conservatives got so upset in the 80s over Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and now the leading Christian values artist in the country creates Piss Pooh.