Dirt-Digging We Can Believe In

One of the more laughable notions during the campaign was Obama’s claim to represent some sort of “new politics”; one of the sillier fictions of the last several years was that Democrats were less prone to dirty tricks and bending the apparatus of government to narrow partisan interests than Republicans. But of course, in any election season there are people eager to lie to themselves and be lied to. Young voters in particular seemed especially, cloyingly eager to swallow this particular nonsense. Worse yet, people like David Brooks (see here and here and here), who in a sane world should have known better, talked themselves into ignoring the warning signs that were written all over Obama’s record and career that he’s never been anything but a front man for bareknuckles Chicago machine politics that runs on patronage, favor-trading and dirt and never, ever places any value above partisan entrenchment and the enrichment of its supporters.

The saga of Shauna Daly is yet another in a seemingly endless series of proofs of this over the first six weeks of united Democratic governance.

In late January, Daly was hired as “White House counsel research director”. Daly is 29 and has no experience relevant to the job, having worked for the DNC and a number of Democratic campaigns, including Obama’s:

Miss Daly holds no law degree and doesn’t list any legal training on her resume.

Her sole experience has been as an opposition researcher for Democratic political campaigns: She helped dig up dirt on rivals, or on her own nominee to prepare for attacks.

Daly apparently got the job through the influence of a man who has made a career of flacking for the Daley machine and, apparently, masterminding leaks of divorce files that crippled Obama’s political opponents:

David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser to President Obama, had a hand in bringing Miss Daly to the campaign, and is thought to have been instrumental in bringing her to the White House.

A month later, she was back at the DNC:

Shauna Daly, 29, will be the DNC’s research director, returning to the fast-paced realm of bare-knuckles politics that associates said suits her best.

Given that the White House counsel’s office deals in privileged legal advice to the president, including on sensitive issues of national security, there are reasons to be concerned that Daly has used her brief tenure in the office for gathering information that was never supposed to be used for partisan purposes:

Daly did not waste her time in an office that had reams of Bush Administration documents related to such things as the firings of U.S. Attorneys, the use and internal debate over the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, and the Scooter Libby and Karl Rove investigations, among others.

“She saw everything, and who knows what she was able to scan and pull out on data sticks,” says a Senate Republican Judiciary Committee staffer. “We’ll find out soon enough when we see what the DNC is putting out during [Sen. Patrick] Leahy’s ‘truth committee’ hearings.”


“She realized that she could do more with all the material she saw outside of the building than inside, where she’d be bound by the rules and legalities of the White House Counsel’s Office. Now she isn’t,” says a DNC staffer who works in the communications field. “She’s good at what she does; her time at the White House means we’ve got a mother load of material that will have Republicans scrambling. At least that’s what we hope.”

That view would explain what Daly was doing if she had neither training nor assigned official duties:

Daly, according to White House staff, was often in her office early and one of the last to leave the Old Executive Office Building, which does not jibe with official White House claims that Daly was not doing much in the office, which was one reason for her leaving.

And coincidentally, shortly after her departure, we have Attorney General Holder – a man who was notorious during the Clinton years for subverting things like DOJ’s pardon process to narrow partisan ends – dumping previously privileged or classified legal advice on the war on terror into the public domain, wholly without regard to the precedent this sets for the president’s future ability to get such advice, and all for short-term partisan advantage.

No, you should not be surprised at any of this.