The Jim/Jeff/JD story distilled.

Whether or not you like Maureen Dowd's column--and I often don't--you've got to give her this much: she's a twice-weekly columnist for the NY Times and spent considerable time earlier in her career as a straight-up journalist. She gets to the heart of the Gannon/Guckert story in today's column:

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

And that's it in a nutshell. The gay prostitute thing, as so many others on the blogosphere have put it, is just sauce for the goose, a bit of delectable hypocrisy from the party of "family values" (read "homos are sinners destined for hellfire). The real issue is one of security--if the White House didn't know that JimmyJeffJD wasn't who he said he was (and remember--all of this stuff about Guckert's personal life came basically from google searches), then how can they be expected to know personal information about anyone, like, oh, I don't know, the people being held at Guantanamo Bay? I'm guessing the background check to get into a White House press briefing is generally a little more stringent than the one that gets you tossed in a US prison camp without legal representation and barred from contact with the outside world.

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