Sealed with a Click

I’m a sucker for a Starbucks caramel macchiato.  I usually restrain myself to a large, but yesterday, I went for the venti.  Guess what – Kyle Sampson loves them, too.  Kyle, as you may have heard, is the former chief of staff to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and also, yet another member of the My First Name is an Initial Club – he’s really D. Kyle Sampson, you know. 
Kyle was pulling a very long face over his venti caramel macchiato when we touched base briefly at one of the two Starbucks coffee shops on Pennsylvania Avenue – there are reasons, dear reader, why I won’t say which Starbucks.  As you may know from previous posts, I encounter blubbering, weeping, broken federal government employees on a regular basis.  Therefore, I pack a stash of handkerchiefs.   Now, I recently bought a box of Diors as a gift for a certain Middle Eastern puppet head of state who is backed by a corrupted and evil empire, and, since I had made the trip to the department store anyway, at that time I also bought four more boxes for use in my business.  Consequently, I had not one, but three, brand-new Dior handkerchiefs to proffer when Mr. Sampson’s tears began to darken the Windsor knot of his fake silk tie, which he must have purchased, I suppose, from one of those third-world push-cart merchants that frequent downtown Washington.  My practiced eye readily discerned that it was synthetic.  Not that the label didn’t say it was pure silk, I’m sure it did – just don’t believe everything you read in Washington, especially when the documentation comes from a push-cart on F Street.
I know you’re wondering, dear reader, what’s with these guys and the waterworks?  Are the Civil Service and the political appointees who oversee them just a bunch of totally spoiled, unspeakably stupid, shamelessly selfish moral cowards who break down in tears whenever they are confronted with adversity or if they don’t get their way?  Well, not immediately – their first reaction is often not bawling; instead, it’s a tantrum – lots of shouting and threats, throwing things across the room, plentiful verbal abuse, and occasionally, some jumping up and down that, truth be told, is pretty fun to watch.  But, if that approach doesn’t prove effective, if it becomes apparent that they are, in fact, not going to get what they want, then their manifestly infantile personalties invariably come to the fore and they show that, deep inside every federal bureaucrat is a monomaniacal two-year old who’s generally scared of everything.  Federal bureaucrats, of course, are also deathly afraid of something in particular, that is, they are terrified of making anything resembling a meaningful decision for which they might be held responsible.
So Kyle had a number of reasons to be crying in his Starbucks caramel macchiato –  seven of them, as a matter of fact.  Those were the seven United States Attorneys on the hit list he delivered to Gonzales.  Sure, Gonzales is a fool, if for no other reason than that he works for George W. Bush.  But when Bush told him to ax the US Attorneys who were “soft on Democrats or hard on Republicans” even Gonzales could figure out it would backfire, and so no way was he going to name anybody himself.  Not when he could do as is done every day on Wall Street, and find a greater fool than himself – a patsy to compile the list of names for him – and just such a greater fool was near to hand, Gonzales’ chief of staff, the very same D. Kyle Sampson who now sat before me, soaking my Dior hankies in childish tears.  And what D. Kyle Sampson had then done was quickly realize that he was both too ignorant and insufficiently clever for such an assignment.  After that, it was, as it is for all of them, so obvious and easy – he would get a consultant to compile the list for him, secretly, then submit the finished list, with its documentation, as his own work.  And now, D. Kyle Sampson had requested a meeting with that contractor, to complain, no doubt, about how the list that contractor compiled for him turned out to be a bomb which blew up in his face, maiming him forever. 
Kyle started up on me just as soon as I sat down at the table and gave him the hankies.  First, of course, he wiped his face and blew his nose, honking like a goose in heat, but forthwith then indignantly demanded, “Why didn’t you warn me about the possible repercussions?”
“I did,” I said, pouring two packets of sugar into my macchiato, watching the crystals sink slowly through the foam.
“But you failed to persuade me!”
“It wouldn’t have mattered.  If I had persuaded you to act rationally, then it would have been necessary for you to persuade Gonzales to act rationally, which is highly unlikely, and then for Gonzales to persuade the President to act rationally, which is impossible.”
“All this talk about ‘White House involvement,’ it just won’t let up,” Kyle continued, “that Miers woman kept sending me emails for twenty months!  What was I supposed to do?”
“You should not have replied to them,” I said with a shrug, “because doing so creates the impression you were collaborating with Miers in the decisions.”
“But you can’t just ignore an email from the White House!” Kyle was obviously shocked at the mere suggestion.
“Sure you can,” I smiled, stirring my coffee, “I do it all the time.  Keeps me out of a lot of trouble, too.”
“That list,” he carped, “it was supposed to be a career-maker for me!”
“I just build petards, sir,” I returned, “if you manage to hoist yourself upon them, there is little I can do to stop you.”
Kyle became agitated at that bit of wit – “You can’t just walk away from something like this, Collins!”
“Hey, look, Kyle,” I shot back, “I admit that I selected Arizona’s Paul Charlton, San Diego’s Carol Lam, Western Michigan’s Margaret Chiara, Nevada’s Daniel Bogden, and Seattle’s John McKay as appropriate subjects for the President’s program to oust US Attorneys who were soft on Democrats or hard on Republicans.  That’s what you paid me to do.  But it was you who put their names in an email to the White House under the rubric ‘USAs We Now Should Consider Pushing Out.’  If you had let me review that memo first, I would have strongly recommended removing that heading from the document, along with that reference to Arkansas’ Bud Cummins as the ‘USA in the Process of Being Pushed Out.’  But did you stop there?  Oh, no, not D. Kyle Sampson!  Then you continued, in writing, to first urge the Administration to have replacements ready to go immediately and second, advise the President to use newly-enacted legislation to bypass the home-state senators in order to, quote ‘1.) get our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House.’  Jesus Christ, man, what were you smoking?  Whatever in God’s green creation ever possessed you to write that in an email?”
Kyle shifted defensively in his chair.  “It was true, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was,” I spoke slowly for emphasis, “but since when is it a good idea to write the truth in an email to the White House?”
Kyle would not concede an iota of his self-righteousness, however, “you were the one who suggested using the new amendments to the Patriot Act to do an end-run around the home state senators!”
“Yeah,” I conceded, “I did, right after I found out that Bill  Moschella had drafted the amendment and agreed to lie and say it was his idea.  But did I put all that in writing and send it to Harriet Miers?”
“No,” Kyle finally admitted, “I did that.”
“What did I tell you the first time we met? ‘Never write anything in an email that you wouldn’t mind reading in the Washington Post,’ that’s what I told you,” I retorted, “you click on that Send button and your words belong to the ages.  So read every damn email at least twice before you send it, and never, ever send an email when you’re drunk!”
“You know I’m a Mormon, Collins!” Kyle gulped his coffee. “I don’t drink!”
“Some Mormon!” I gestured at his caramel macchiato. “What about that?”
“It’s decaf,” Kyle snarled back.
“Okay, then I amend my previous remark: never, ever send an email when you are half asleep.”
Kyle did as most of them usually do at this point – he started to whine. “Why pick on me for seven names?  Back in 2005 Karl Rove and Harriet Miers suggested we replace all ninety-three United States Attorneys with our guys.  It would have been perfectly legal.”
“Replacing all ninety-three US Attorneys was such a stupid idea, even Gonzales said so,” I replied.
“Gonzoles says he doesn’t remember any of that,” Kyle interjected morosely.
“Of course he can’t remember any of that,” I explained, “there’s something in the water here in Washington that causes people like him to forget things.”
“Well,” Kyle resume, “all the United States Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, don’t they?”  Kyle stopped to blow his nose again, this time emulating a trumpet swan with disconcerting fidelity.  “Bush could have fired all of them, theoretically.”
“Theoretically,” I observed, “the law allows the rich as well as the destitute to live in cardboard boxes by the gutter and sleep on top of steam gratings in the sidewalk.  They’re not picking on you, Kyle.  You’re a scapegoat, just like Libby.  It’s the system at work.  You get crucified so Gonzales can keep his job.”
“The deal was supposed to be that I got another position in the environmental division of DOJ,” he wailed softly, “but the liberal press jumped all over it and then DOJ said they had no choice but to throw me out completely.  I don’t see how Gonzales figures he can get away with it,” Kyle sniffed, “Like Chuck Schumer said yesterday, either Gonzales knew what I was doing, in which case he’s as culpable as I am; or he didn’t, in which case he’s incompetent to be Attorney General.”
“If competence was an issue,” I opined, “George W. Bush would have been out of a job several years ago.  So yeah, Gonzales didn’t know what you were doing…”
“He did so!  He told me to do it!”
“Says you, Mr. Sampson.”  Mercy caused a small twinge in the back of my neck, just for a moment.  It wouldn’t hurt to ask, I guess.
“You may be a Mormon, but you’re certainly no Christian Scientist.  So, by any chance, have you been taking any sleep medications?  Because if you have been, those things can cause people to do all kinds of stuff in their sleep without knowing they are doing it – including driving around town in their pajamas – maybe make them write emails they shouldn’t have written, too.”
“Under these circumstances, Collins, even if I had been taking those screwy sleeping pills, I wouldn’t tell you,” Kyle replied.
“Hey, I was just thinking out loud, Kyle,” I parried, “trying to come up with some kind of mitigation for your predicament.  It’s not like I’m charging you for the advice.  This is strictly a courtesy follow-up meeting.  I perform services and deliver results.  What my clients do with the results is not my responsibility.”
Kyle finished his decaf coffee confection and stared at me malevolently for a moment.  “I’ll tell,” he said, sounding for all the world like the spoiled brat that lives inside every federal bureaucrat.  “They’re going to subpoena me, and I’ll tell them all about you, Tom Collins.”
“Go right ahead and do that, Mr. Sampson,” I beamed back at him, “I can always use a vast amount of free publicity.”
“Damn you, Tom Collins!” Kyle’s shout caused several patrons at other tables to jerk their heads around and stare at us.  Kyle stood up abruptly, shaking the table as his chair screeched on the floor.  Kyle balled up the three Dior hankies I had handed him and threw them down on the table top.  Then he turned on his heel and made for the door.
I must confess, I couldn’t resist – “Give my best to Noelle!”  Kyle stopped short and turned to look back at me, his face red as an Idaho Mormon’s sugar beets – “And Betty, and Jane, and Christina, and Annie, and Helen, and Iris, and all the rest of your wives you left back in Utah!”
It was a nice shade of purple indeed that he turned then – “You haven’t seen the last of me!” Sampson roared, drawing intense stares from all quarters.
I looked him straight in the eye.  “Oh yes, I think I have!”
At that, he stormed out of the Starbucks into today’s torrential and unrelenting rain.
Under such circumstances, dear reader, one must retain one’s composure.  After all, I still had half a caramel macchiato to finish, which I did, in a calm and leisurely fashion, taking the opportunity to have my first look at the Friday, March 16 edition of the Washington Post.  Sure enough, there were Kyle’s emails, on Page A-2.  “We would like to replace 15 – 20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys – the under-performing ones… The vast majority of U.S. Attorneys, 80 – 85 percent, I would guess, are loyal Bushies…”  In another passage, Kyle agreed with the idea of firing all of them, provided that Karl Rove thought the political will to do so existed.  What did I tell him?  Never put anything in an email you wouldn’t mind reading in the Washington Post.  Well, duh, here they were – his emails, printed in the Washington Post.  Is it my fault that he doesn’t enjoy reading them?
And oh, yeah – the “D” in Sampson’s name – I’m pretty sure it’s worse than “Dorkman.”  It looks like my friend Dorkman, whom I mentioned in a previous post, is a real winner compared to D. Kyle Sampson.  Mr. Sampson, that poor, Godforsaken fellow; he kept his first name as effectively concealed as a Mormon residing in the pricey Foxhall district of Northwest might hide the other six wives and twenty eight children he left back in Salt Lake City.  Thanks to D. Kyle’s diligence, even I can’t say for sure whether his parents, numbering, as near as I can tell, between two and seventeen, named him “D**ch*b*g” or “D*ckh**d” Kyle Sampson.  I do know, however, that adopting something pejorative for a baby boy’s first name, as Mormons are wont do to, thereby drops, over an eighteen year period, a none-too-subtle hint to the excess male children in their polygamous communities.  So when the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints at last gather such unfortunate young fellows up in the stake minivan and subsequently dump them on the other side of the state border in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Montana or New Mexico; or, alternatively, at the front door of Brigham Young University, the boys intrinsically understand that it’s the Will of God and the Law of the Great Prophet, Joe Smith.  Now admit it, dear reader, knowing that, don’t you feel much better about yourself?  So come on, quit your complaining – at least you aren’t D. Kyle Sampson – G.W. Bush scapegoat, a Mormon with a first name so ugly nobody knows it, and, on top of all that, totally disgraced and unemployed.  Unless you’re sitting in the Sahel, surrounded by desiccated animal carcasses and ten thousand square miles of cracked, sun-baked mud, and, by some hilarious accident of fate, reading this on a hand-cranked computer provided by the United Nations, you gotta be laughing.  Look at that sorry excuse for a human being, this D. Kyle Sampson.  Heh, heh, heh.  There’s what a big, important job in Washington DC will do for ya, bucky.