Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

  Let us invoke the hortatory subjunctive

Lurita Doan, embattled head of the General Services Administration, demonstrated today that, yes, she can bring even greater ridicule upon herself. At a House hearing, Doan tried to convince the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she was neither maligning employees who've criticized her own violation of the Hatch Act, nor threatening them. Instead, Doan said, "I thought I was using like a hortatory subjunctive right there."

On January 26 Scott Jennings, a deputy of Karl Rove, had shown a meeting of top GSA employees a presentation about the 2006 election results. Jennings also forecast the most difficult Republican races in 2008. Doan then asked Jennings "How can we help our candidates?" (i.e. Republicans). When the news broke, the Office of Special Counsel investigated her actions. Last month, the OSC (headed by Scott Bloch, who has his own violations of the Hatch Act to contend with, as I've discussed here before) ruled that Doan violated the Hatch Act.

"I have determined that you violated the Hatch Act's prohibition against using your official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election when you solicited over 30 subordinate employees to engage in political activity," Bloch wrote in a cover letter to the report.

In a statement Wednesday, Doan said she disagreed with the report's preliminary findings, calling it a "staff-drafted report."

"I have concerns with the leaps in logic and the many inaccuracies contained in it, such as an error as simple as citing a nonexistent employee in my office," Doan said. "I have an opportunity, which I will take, to work with the Office of Special Counsel to correct the many inaccuracies before the final report is issued."

Doan later revised her statement, excluding the remark about the nonexistent employee in her office, but reiterating that she disagrees with the report's preliminary findings.


Doan has made many bizarre assertions in her own defense, including the claim that she didn't remember much about the meeting because she was fiddling with her Blackberry. The OSC investigation found no digital trail to show that she was using the device at all.

Doan's inability to remember the presentation by her White House guest at the January meeting is contrasted in the report with her vivid recall of other specifics that day. The report concludes that she violated the Hatch Act, which generally prohibits the use of federal resources for campaign purposes.

"Administrator Doan's violation is further aggravated by her failure to take responsibility for her actions and her lack of remorse in violating the Hatch Act," the report says.


Doan may not have taken any responsibility for herself, but she did go on the offensive against the employees who blew the whistle:

According to the report, Doan said during a May 3 interview with OSC, "I do find it highly disturbing that some of the most vocal proponents or the most articulate speaking out against me are also the people who are people I've either moved on or they are, I don't want to say permanently demoted but they're kind of, until extensive rehabilitation of their performance occurs, they will not be getting promoted and they will not be getting bonuses or special awards or anything of that nature."

But in looking at the performance reviews of seven employees who had provided information to House lawmakers about Doan's alleged statements, OSC found that Doan's claim regarding the witnesses "appears to have been purposefully misleading and false" since none of the seven employees had "between a poor to totally inferior performance."

"Administrator Doan's implication that the adverse witnesses were biased against her simply is not credible," the report stated. "[I]t is troubling that Administrator Doan made the above unsubstantiated allegations during an official investigation of her actions. It arguably indicates a willingness on her part not only to use her position in a way that is threatening to anyone who would come forward, but also suggests a willingness to retaliate against anyone who would be so 'disloyal' as to tell the truth about a matter she confesses she does not remember."


At today's meeting, Doan was asked what she meant by her statement that "the most articulate [people] speaking out against me are also the people who are people I've either moved on or they are, I don't want to say permanently demoted but they're kind of, until extensive rehabilitation of their performance occurs, they will not be getting promoted and they will not be getting bonuses or special awards or anything of that nature."

Get ready for it: Doan claimed that she sometimes has problems with tenses of verbs! Pressed further by Rep. Yarmuth what that meant, she 'clarified':

"I thought I was using like a hortatory subjunctive right there."


A grammarian might lift an eyebrow at this explanation. For one thing, the subjunctive is a different mood, not a different tense, from what she used (which was the future indicative, for statements of fact about what the future holds).

For another, the hortatory subjunctive is used (i) only in the present tense; and (ii) only in the first person plural ("let us now praise famous men"). As the name implies, it is an exhortation to (collective) action. Not a statement of fact, even less a prediction of future treatment (or the like).

Well, there's always the contrary-to-fact conditional statement. Look for Doan to try that one out next.

crossposted from Unbossed

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