• David M. Rubin

ULTIMATE FIGHTING COMES TO CHARLESTON

Representative Nancy Mace thought she was on a glide path to the Republican nomination to keep her seat in the House.

Her election strategy had become clear in recent months. Avoid Trump and his rantings about stolen elections, fraud, and insurrection. Try not to upset any voters in her highly competitive district. Focus on veterans affairs; introduce a bill to keep Panda bear cubs in the United States as a diplomatic slap at China; legalize pot; and end mink farming.

It would have been tough for Democrats to oppose such folderol (veterans aside). Given the life and death issues facing the country, it's a wonder Mace wants to be in Congress at all, if this is her agenda.

But then the zombie candidate emerged from exile in Washington, D.C. Katie Arrington, who lost the seat in the Blue Wave 2018 election to Democrat Joe Cunningham, was back to claim it by challenging Mace in the 2022 primary. She came armed with Donald Trump's full-throated endorsement plus a vintage-Trump verbal attack on Mace for her criticism of his behavior on January 6.

The Insurrectionist Wing of the Republican Party may applaud Arrington's entry into the race, but the Somewhat Sane Wing of the Party (Senator Lindsay Graham, Representative Tim Rice) is surely dismayed.

The Trump administration offered a job to Arrington after her defeat in 2018 so that she was not on the scene to fight a second round against Cunningham in 2020. Her loss of the seat in 2018 stung the party. Once was enough.

Her job in D.C came with a title that only a bloated organization like the Department of Defense can concoct: Chief Information Security Officer for Acquisition and Sustainment. Specifically, she was overseeing a program to cajole defense contractors to improve their cybersecurity so they would be less prone to a hacking attack. In Washington's alphabet land, this was dubbed CMMC for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.

Whether this job was essential to national security or a sinecure I will leave to your judgment.

Whatever, the job began to unravel on May 7, 2021 at approximately 9 am when she was notified that the NSA had revoked her access to a certain level of classified information. At approximately 5 pm that day she was placed on administrative leave effective immediately.

Four days later she was informed that her security clearance for access to classified information was suspended. This was a result of a reported unauthorized disclosure of classified information, although she wasn't told what she had revealed, or to whom, or when. She was informed, however, that her actions might have constituted a federal crime.

The next day, May 12, she was moved to a paid, non-duty status in light of the suspension of her security clearance.

After sitting in bureaucratic limbo for five months, she filed suit in October (amended in November) to force DoD to resolve the situation by revealing what evidence it had against her. She wanted a hearing. Her suit was settled in January of this year. Among other concessions, Arrington did get from the government the details of her "crime" on which the suspension was based, but these details have not been made public.

Her job itself was eliminated in early February. Arrington quit on February 7, protesting how she was treated and noting that she was just about to file a hostile work environment suit against Jesse Salazar, one of her superiors and a Biden appointee as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy. Two days later, she announced she was running in the primary.

The publication Fedscoop, that reports on technical issues in the federal government, had this to say about Arrington's job performance: "Some key members of the CMMC ecosystem bristled with her style and found her experience on cybersecurity policy lacking, a tension that at times strained her relationship with the CMMC-Accreditation Body that she helped create.

After her suspension the department announced a significant reduction in the scope of CMMC and the program she built."

Because Arrington parrots Trump on all the issues, the primary will not be about issues, just fealty to Trump. This is why Mace humiliated herself on February 10 by racing to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to shoot a 1 minute, 44 second video she posted to Twitter, with Trump Tower in the background. She reminded Republicans that she loyally worked for Trump in 2016 and supported his MAGA policies. She made no mention whatsoever of the Big Lie of a stolen election or the insurrection of January 6.

Pointedly, she warned Republicans: "If you want to lose this seat once again in the midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that."

If I was a political journalist, or if I worked in opposition research for Mace, I would want to know a lot more about Arrington's job in Washington. How and why did Arrington get it? Did Republican Party leaders want her out of the way in 2020? What classified information did she reveal and to whom? What did her superiors and people in the NSA think of her work? After all, if she is not fit to work at DoD, is she fit to oversee DoD as a member of Congress?

We Democrats can only cheer at these events. Whichever candidate wins the Republican primary will come out of it bloodied and broke. Trump's reputation as a king maker is now squarely on the line in this race. The Mace-Arrington rumble is the undercard to Liz Cheney's epic fight in Wyoming to hold her seat against the Trump and RNC-supported challenger, Harriet Hageman.

I will give credit to Arrington for one thing. She dragged Mace out of Panda-land and back to political reality. The next few months will make first-year hazing at The Citadel, her alma mater, look like a beach party.

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