In its never-ending quest to get scandal spaghetti to stick to the Obama administration wall, the political media is abuzz about a blockbuster Washington Post report that says a White House volunteer might maybe possibly have had a legal sex worker as an overnight guest in Colombia, and the White House knew that maybe this happened. Maybe it didn’t.
According to the paper, the White House was advised that Jonathan Dach, a paid volunteer member of the White House advance travel team, might have had a legal prostitute as an overnight guest on his room at the Cartagena Hilton, at the same time Secret Service agents were also ruining their careers with Colombian prostitutes. Dach categorically denies this, and the White House Counsel’s office conducted an internal review that satisfied them that he was telling the truth, or at least that the allegation couldn’t be substantiated.
There are two important questions to be answered here: Why is this a story, and why is this a scandal?
Here’s the supposed scandal part: according to the Post’s mostly anonymous sources, the White House tried to “cover up” the allegation. That’s bullshit, for a host of reasons that I’ll save you some time on by quoting that Washington Post article twice. First, there’s this:
Whether the White House volunteer, Jonathan Dach, was involved in wrongdoing in Cartagena, Colombia, remains unclear.
Right, so if Dach’s involvement hasn’t actually been uncovered, then it can’t very well be “covered up,” can it? Now, a fair person could respond to that by pointing out that maybe it could have been uncovered if the White House had dug more deeply. They interviewed Dach and the other members of his team, but that was pretty much it. Presented with hotel records, they concluded that those weren’t reliable because another hotel record from the same scandal actually had turned out to be unreliable. That’s in the Washington Post article, too, along with this fairly compelling reason for not going all Jack McGee: Hulk Hunter on the whole thing:
One senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said Ruemmler believed it would be a “real scandal” if she had sent “a team of people to Colombia to investigate a volunteer over something that’s not a criminal act. . . . That would be insane.”
Yes, it would be. WaPo says that Secret Service agents are angry that their bros got hung out to dry, while Dach wasn’t investigated, but he’s not a Secret Service agent. The act he’s accused of is legal, if distasteful. Should the White House also find out if Dach sang “I Will Survive” at the hotel’s karaoke bar, which should be a crime, but isn’t? When asked about White House staff involvement, then-Press Secretary Jay Carney answered truthfully: they looked into it, and found “no specific, credible allegations of misconduct by anyone on the White House advance team or the White House staff.”
In order to conclude that this was a “cover up,” you would have to believe that Carney should have responded “Well, we hear Dach might have gotten some, maybe not, He says no, but that’s just what you’d expect him to say. He also thinks he’s good at karaoke.”
None of which is to say this shouldn’t be a story. It’s sufficiently sourced although some of the attributions are weak; anyone citing Senate sources should at least identify the source’s party), and it contains enough evidence of a newsworthy event to merit publication. The Postsays it inspected hotel records that showed the photocopied I.D. of a female guest (who advertises as a prostitute) attached to Dach’s room record. While Dach was a paid volunteer at the time, he is now Policy Advisor for Multilateral Issues and Legal Reform at the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Legal or not, frequenting prostitutes would not be a good look for that position.
Additionally, Dach’s father, Leslie Dach, is a big Democratic donor who now woks for the Department of Health and Human Services, and who used to be a Walmart executive who worked with First Lay Michelle Obama on her “Let’s Move!” campaign. As the story develops, both of those posts could still make things uncomfortable for the administration. If there’s anything to the allegation, then more is sure to come out. Beyond some horrible PR, however, that’s really all there is to it.