When I popped open my in box this morning I found a slew of emails from various and sundry right-wing yahoos alerting me to this article in the National Review Online, which ostensibly puts to rest the whole matter of the Texas DPS manhunt Homeland Security story.
Here's one example from a disgruntled, but expectant TPM reader Michael K.
Josh,The essential point of the story in question is that the DHS found it did nothing wrong and that more was spent by DHS investigating the issue than it spent helping to track down the Texas Democrats in the first place. And, therefore, it's the critics who are wrong not the Texas Republicans or the DHS.
I am sure you are aware of the following story from NRO, or at least aware of its conclusions.
Can we expect to see a mea culpa on TPM in the near future? It seems that you may have attempted created a tempest in a teapot for, what appears to be, no good reason.
Thanks for your time.
Michael K. (last name withheld by editor)
Now, just for starters, it's obviously the thinnest sort of ice any conservative stands on when judging the merit or results of an investigation by how many tax payer dollars it cost to conduct. Need I say more? But let's set that aside for the moment and go to a few points about the NRO article.
First, the author's interpretation of "DHS inspector general Clark Kent Ervin's report" which he issued "after an extensive investigation." Hard to know where to start on this one since Ervin recused himself from the entire case in mid-May. He turned the investigation over to Lisa Redman, DHS' assistant inspector general.
Then there's the "unidentified caller from the Texas DPS" who called the DHS and asked for assistance in tracking down former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney's plane. I think I can help on this one. His name is Lt. Will Crais. He's been identified, to the best of my knowledge in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every daily newspaper in Texas.
Next, the author of the NRO article claims that Laney really was genuinely missing. And thus the necessity of finding out where he was.
Without Texas Rep. Pete Laney safely in allied territory â in the case, a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma â the Democrats' conspiracy was doomed to failure. Laney was the linchpin to the scheme; without him, the 50 Democrats already holed up in Oklahoma numbered one short of the necessary 51.See, everyone was looking for Laney! His plane had "dropped off radar screens." (I know Texas is a whole different country. But normally we call dropping off radar screens 'landing' -- especially when it occurs over something called an airport. And how'd they know it had dropped off the radar screens?) Even DHS officials admitted they were bamboozled into thinking the plane had crashed.
Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick was looking for Laney too. Under Texas house rules, the speaker of the house may use the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) to retrieve fugitive lawmakers â in handcuffs if necessary. If Craddick could find Laney before he made it across the border, the Democrats' walkout would fail.
Both sides wanted to know: Where was Pete Laney?
Visiting his mother, of course. After all, it was the day after Mother's Day.
Laney, who is the former Democratic speaker of the Texas house and a licensed pilot, was flying to Oklahoma when he dropped off radar screens and landed his plane in Graham, Texas to visit his mother.
In any case, the whole premise here is false. Democrats weren't looking for Laney. He wasn't missing in any sense save the fact that Tom Craddick and Gov. Perry wanted to take him into custody. Even the Texas law enforcement officials don't make this argument any more. (Woe to the journalist who repeats spoon-fed talking points after they're no longer operative!)
Now, what I take from the author's seeming unfamiliarity with the case is that he read little else but the DHS own self-exonerating report. And perhaps he got walked through the controversy by some flack at the RNC, someone from Tom DeLay's office, or maybe someone from the Rutherford Institute.
That explains why his whole conclusion conveniently ignores (or perhaps wasn't aware of) the main question the critics raised from the outset and why it follows so closely from the DHS IG's report itself. As we noted here at TPM more than a month ago, the question was not whether Homeland Security knew they were being bamboozled (the report itself says they did). The question was whether a domestic political dispute was a proper matter for DHS to get involved in and who -- i.e., what politicians -- ordered the DPS to pull them into the dispute.
On question one, the DHS seems to have decided that this was an appropriate use of their albeit minimal resources. That judgment speaks for itself, and not well. As for the other question, the Homeland Security IG report states explicitly that they chose not to look into this question after state officials refused to answer their questions.