Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Timmons aides Saddam Hussein?

Murray Wass of the Huffington Post writes:
William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
and
Moreover, there was a major financial incentive at play for Timmons. The multi-million dollar oil deal that he was pursuing with the two other lobbyists would only be possible if their efforts to ease sanctions against Iraq were successful.

Vincent, an Iraqi-born American citizen with whom Timmons worked most closely, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in January 2005 that he had acted as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's regime. Tongsun Park, the second lobbyist who Timmons worked closely with, was convicted by a federal jury in July 2006 on charges that he too violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Click here for the full story.

Here's is my take, and my self-assessment of my own understanding of this story:
  1. Corruption is bad. Timmons at least appears to be subject to corrupting influence. I'll hold off judgment on whether or not Timmons is actually corrupt.
  2. Representing Iraq, or at least Iraqis as part of the Oil for Food program is legitimate work and needed to be done. It was likely an almost thankless task.
  3. I have no clue what it means to be in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or how this might apply to Timmons.
If McCain has tapped a corrupt official as the head his (not going to be) transitioning team, this seems like a bad decision he should repudiate. If Timmons is not corrupt then I find it difficult to fault him through association. That is - As long as he was doing his job properly and representing Iraqi interests appropriately. This last part is a bit tricky. What exactly does is mean to be an "Unregistered Foreign Agent"? I find it difficult to credit that Timmons, a long time political insider, was acting in a treasonous manner. Corrupt perhaps - selfish - but not intentionally against US interests.

So what is this story? An October surprise? Obama's campaign hardly needs such a tactic at this point because it's hard to see McCain's campaign being much worse off than it already is. Maybe this is a story of corruption, but the Oil-for-Food scandal has already run its course, and Timmons role in that has been investigated (and he is not in jail). What is left, political sniping? Perhaps. I really think this story won't be around too long. (Go ahead though, prove me wrong).