Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

THE FAMILY THAT KEEPS ON GIVING....Today's LA Times story about former Pentagon inspector general Joseph Schmitz is hilarious:

[Current and former colleagues] described a management style in which Schmitz asked for updates on personal projects such as a new bathroom in his executive suite or the hiring of a speechwriter while avoiding substantive issues such as tight budgets.

....Some of the more unusual complaints regarding Schmitz deal with what senior officials called an "obsession" with [Baron Friedrich] Von Steuben, the Revolutionary War hero who worked with George Washington to instill discipline in the military. Von Steuben reportedly fled Germany after learning that he was going to be tried for homosexual activities.

Shortly after taking office, Schmitz made Von Steuben's legacy a focus. He spent three months personally redesigning the inspector general's seal to include the Von Steuben family motto, "Always under the protection of the Almighty."

He dictated the number of stars, laurel leaves and colors of the seal. He also asked for a new eagle, saying that the one featured on the old seal "looked like a chicken," current and former officials said.

For Orange County residents with long memories, yes, Joseph is part of that Schmitz family. And the story is slightly less hilarious when it gets to this part:

He paid close attention, however, to the investigations of senior Bush administration appointees. At one point, investigators even stopped telling Schmitz who was under investigation, substituting letter codes for the names of individuals during weekly briefings for fear that Schmitz would leak the information to Pentagon superiors, according to a senior Pentagon official.

....Another case in which Schmitz intervened came when the inspector general's office began examining the jobs received by Pentagon officials who left for the private sector, according to another U.S. official, who also declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

And where is Schmitz now? He left the inspector general's office to take a job in the private sector, of course. He now works for the parent company of defense contractor Blackwater USA. I'm sure they're getting their money's worth.

UPDATE: In comments, some readers are wondering what the joke is about "that Schmitz family." Luckily, another reader emailed me a fond memory of Joseph's father, legendary Orange County congressman John Schmitz, that should give you a clue:

I still remember a press release from Schmitz's office when he was a state senator. Schmitz had scheduled a series of hearings around the state on an anti-abortion bill he had introduced. The press release, on Senate letterhead, was headlined: "State Sen. John G. Schmitz survives the attack of the bull dykes," and went on to complain that at one hearing he was confronted by an audience made up of "hard, female, and arguably Jewish faces....."

Ah, those were the days. Bob Dornan, James Utt, John Schmitz, and the whole John Birch Society clan. Google is your friend if you insist on learning more. And don't forget to Google "Mary Kay Letourneau" while you're at it!

UPDATE 2: Another reader says the correct quote is actually "hard, Jewish, and arguably female faces...." This site backs him up.

Kevin Drum 12:43 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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