Undiplomatic

Plus: UTD orders investigation of Waterview

On April 18, IBTCI President Jayant Kalotra sent a letter to the committee's chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar, insisting it was Townsel who was "belligerent" toward her subordinates and that she had "limited contact" with Bolton. He also accused her of attempting "unsuccessfully to charge the U.S. government for disallowable costs" and described Bolton as "intelligent, hard working, loyal and highly ethical." Townsel says Kalotra's charges "couldn't be further from the truth" and that he's merely watching his own back, since Kalotra was the initial target of her claims in 1994.

Eventually, others went before the committee to complain about Bolton's behavior, most notably former State Department official Carl W. Ford Jr., who called Bolton "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" and "a serial bully." Colin Powell told at least two Republican senators that Bolton "had problems" with anyone who disagreed with him and cautioned them against pushing through Bolton's nomination. And both Timemagazine and The Toronto Starfound witnesses who could corroborate some of Townsel's story.

That didn't stop Rush Limbaugh from going on his radio show and Web site and calling Townsel a liar. It didn't stop the blogs from dismissing her claims as those of nothing more than a liberal shill doing the bidding of her party, nor The Wall Street Journalfrom insisting, as it did on April 21, that even if Townsel's allegations were true, "if raising your voice and pounding on doors is disqualifying for public service, half of the Senate would have to resign."

The blogs, especially, have used Townsel's past to discredit her story. They've gone back and found a handful of Dallas Morning Newsstories in which she's been mentioned, since 1994, and tried to make it appear as though she's a publicity hound. Nothing's been more picked-over than a June 2004 story about Mothers Opposing Bush, in which she said she joined because "we have a lot of moms who are concerned about everything from the deficit to air quality, particularly in North Texas." Her comment has turned into her being the leader of MOB, and an "anti-Bush partisan," wrote the Journal.

"I've got to say that at the end of this, I bow to the power of the blogosphere," Townsel says. "It's incredible. The mainstream media's interesting and influential, but the blogs are where a lot of the debate occurs now. Instantly, anything the other side said about me was picked up as the truth, and I became a serial partisan whining complainer."

But on April 25, the day she gave her Senate testimony by telephone, Townsel says, she was contacted by "someone who identified himself as being with a Christian newspaper" who wanted to know about allegations of plagiarism brought against her 22 years ago, when she was at her college newspaper. Townsel does not recall the name of the reporter or the paper, but nonetheless she outed herself in a letter posted to Daily Kos, in which she wrote, "Republicans have dredged up an unfortunate chapter of my life and, clearly, are about to announce it to the world."

Her letter quickly spread across the Web. The following day, blogs such as LibertyPost.org and ClassicalValues.com picked up on the admission and used it to beat Townsel over the head once more. One contributor to LibertyPost.org wrote that Townsel "can't keep her own big mouth shut and this rat-derived vendetta against Bolton starts to take on the look and feel of the Clarence Thomas hearings."

Ultimately, what the bloggers don't mention is the toll exacted upon the whistleblower. The first time she tried to warn superiors about wrongdoing at the top, she says, they sicced John Bolton on her. The second time, the bloggers and right-wing columnists and Republican politicians and powerbrokers came after her. Worse, she says, she has lost two clients over this. "In the business of PR, image is all," she says. "And they want somebody who isn't the story." For the moment, Townsel worries less about what people say about her than how she will pay the bills this year.

"As I sit here today, yes, I think I would do it again," she says. "I still feel very much that I did my duty. That's my heart talking. My head's saying, 'Damn, it's cost me a lot of money.' I don't know. I think you've gotta live your life in a way that you stand by your convictions, and I think I've done that here." --Robert Wilonsky

UTD Orders Investigation of Waterview
The president of the University of Texas at Dallas will put together a commission to examine Dallas Observer findings of poor living conditions and inadequate security at the university's only student housing.

In an April 29 letter to students and faculty, UTD President Franklyn Jenifer said the panel will evaluate the 1,237-unit Waterview Park apartments and make recommendations to correct any problems found. The letter followed publication of "The Dorm From Hell," an April 28 Observercover story detailing numerous problems at Waterview, including several sexual assaults for which UTD failed to inform students.

Jenifer, who will retire soon after 11 years as president, said the article raised questions that cannot be ignored. "The Observer piece strikes at the very heart of a number of 'student life' issues that all of us here at UTD should care deeply about--everything from crime and personal safety to alleged health hazards to reportedly not being able to get repairs implemented in a timely manner," he wrote. Jenifer said Dr. David Daniel, his successor, has endorsed the idea of appointing an investigative panel.

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