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WHERE WAS ALL OF THE CLAMOR DURING BUSH DOCUMENT SAGA?

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AN INDEPENDENT COUNSEL is investigating a number of administration officials, including the president himself.

The counsel requests documents from the White House. Many are turned over, with the exception of one. The counsel issues a second request for papers, but this document is still not provided.Then one day, a White House staff assistant responsible for keeping the president's family records discovers the document. She immediately recognizes that the independent counsel has requested it.

Sound familiar?

It should. But this is not only because of the controversy surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton and the billing records of the Rose Law Firm.

The document in question was George Bush's diary, long sought by Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel investigating the Iran-contra scandal in the Reagan administration.

Walsh first requested all relevant White House documents, including the diaries of officials, in 1987, when Bush was vice president. A second request was made in the summer of 1992 when then-President Bush was running for re-election.

That September, an administration staff assistant, Patty Presock, found the Bush diary in the personal safe on the third floor of the White House's living quarters. But even then the document was not delivered, according to Walsh's Iran-Contra report.

Instead, Presock told Bush of her discovery and said she believed it was relevant to the latest independent counsel request. Bush said he directed Presock to have the presidential counsel, C. Boyden Gray, "sort it out."

Eventually, in December 1992, after Bush had lost the election, Gray showed a few lawyers on his staff some excerpts. They readily concluded that the diary should be turned over to the independent counsel.

On Dec. 11, 1992, almost six years after the original request, Gray notified the independent counsel that a diary had been found. Entries from it were not produced until late December.

In his final report, Walsh seems to imply that Bush knew the diary was relevant in 1987, at the time of the first request, but that he intentionally did not produce it.

We do not recall any clamor or outrage over these findings from those members of Congress who are now so critical of the Clinton White House. We do not recall Sen. Alfonse D'Amato rushing to have hearings about this delay.