The Obama administration went into hardball mode in its quest to rid itself of a troublesome Inspector General and to protect a sweetheart deal for a political ally. The White House sent a letter to Congress last night that accused Gerald Walpin of senility in all but name, alleging that Walpin had been confused and disoriented at a key meeting. However, that hardly fits with the manner in which the Obama administration attempted to push Walpin out of his post:
“Mr. Walpin was removed after a review was unanimously requested by the bi-partisan Board of the Corporation,” Obama ethics counsel Norm Eisen wrote in a letter to senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.), with a copy directed to McCaskill. “The Board’s action was precipitated by a May 20, 2009 Board meeting at which Mr. Walpin was confused, disoriented, unable to answer questions and exhibited other behavior that led the Board to question his capacity to serve.”
“We further learned that Mr. Walpin had been absent from the Corporation’s headquarters, insisting upon working from his home in New York over the objections of the Corporation’s Board; that he had exhibited a lack of candor in providing material information to decision makers; and that he had engaged in other troubling and inappropriate conduct,” Eisen wrote. …
Reached at his home in New York Tuesday night, Walpin called the allegations in the Eisen letter “absolutely amazing.”
“Anybody who’s heard me speaking more than I’m used to speaking on radio and TV in recent days, obviously under great pressure from what happened would clearly know that I know what I’m saying and what I’m doing and I’m not incoherent,” Walpin told POLITICO. “There’s nothing confusing about malfeasance and there’s nothing confusing about what appears to be the fact that they terminated me because I was doing my job because the White House wanted to protect people who proclaim they are friends of the White House.”
Let’s unwind the timeline a bit to test this new allegation. Walpin pressed hard to prosecute Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson for defrauding the government over more than $400,000 in community service grants. Johnson, an Obama supporter, got a deal from the White House that allowed him to manage federal funds again and avoid paying back at least half of the grant money he used illegally. The White House cut Walpin out of those negotiations, and Walpin went to Congress about it.
At that point, the White House called Walpin and told him he had an hour to resign or be fired. Now, if the White House thought that Walpin was somehow incapacitated or disoriented, why bother to make that call at all? In fact, wouldn’t an employer with an ounce of empathy send the employee to a physician for diagnosis first? Even without the empathy, the proper course would have been to address the issue with Congress first instead of making an intimidation attempt to someone the White House now paints as all but senile.
This is nothing more than a bare-knuckled smear job, a despicable attempt to use allegations of mental illness to discredit someone who ran afoul of Barack Obama for taking the independence of his job seriously. That may play in Chicago, and it used to play in Moscow, but it shouldn’t play in Washington DC and America.
Senator Claire McCaskill became the first Democrat in Congress to demand a better explanation:
“The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service. The legislation which was passed last year requires that the president give a reason for the removal. ‘Loss of confidence’ is not a sufficient reason. I’m hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible,” McCaskill said.
They can’t provide the real reason, which is that Walpin went after a political ally of the President’s. That’s why they’re calling him senile instead. Let’s hope that a few more Democrats with principle stand up to the White House’s bullying and politicization of the Inspectors General.
Update: Michelle has more on the Walpin story:
Far from being “confused” and “disoriented,” Walpin is clear as day. Anyone who actually reads through his audits and investigative reports knows that. You can, should, and must read Walpin’s reports both on CUNY funding abuse and on the Johnson scandal here.
I also continue to hammer at the Michelle Obama angle. Her vested interest in propping up the government-subsidized volunteer industry stretches back to her days leading the Chicago non-profit Public Allies (scroll down to the end of my column for what the AmeriCorps’ inspector general found while investigating money troubles at Mrs. O’s old friends at Public Allies). And we can’t forget her days working to promote national service — and to set up cozy public chat forums with her husband and Weather Underground Bill Ayers — while at the University of Chicago.
Read the entire column.