Some pretty ugly stuff and some pretty unconvincing non-denial-denials.
Let's go to the tape, or rather, to Christopher Lee's very clarifying piece in Friday's Washington Post.
It seems state law enforcement officials, working under orders from Texas state House Speaker Tom Craddick, went to a branch of the new Department of Homeland Security to try to track down a plane owned by one Texas state legislator. An odd use of the new Department of Homeland Security, especially since they seem to have put in the request for help at exactly the same time the new al qaida attack was going down in Saudi Arabia (Monday afternoon/evening).
Here, according to Lee, is what happened ...
On Monday, Craddick and other Republicans dispatched state troopers to round up the legislative fugitives and bring them back to the Texas Capitol.
State police officials, in turn, called in federal help as they pursued a rumor that Rep. James E. "Pete" Laney, a former Texas House speaker, had ferried fellow Democrats out of state aboard his Piper turboprop airplane. A state investigator called the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center in Riverside, Calif., part of the Homeland Security Department, to ask officials there to use their nationwide radar network to help locate the plane.
The call from the unnamed investigator came as an "urgent plea," describing a plane with state officials aboard that was overdue, according to a statement issued yesterday by the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out," the statement quoted the officer as saying. "We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Okla., to Georgetown, Tex. It had state representatives on it, and we cannot find this plane."
Believing they had an emergency on their hands, agency officials called the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth, and airport officials in two other Texas cities, but were unable to find the plane.
piece implies the investigator was unidentified; but the Austin American-Statesman says
he identified himself by name and rank.)
In any case, if Homeland Security's statement is to be believed, they got tricked into tracking down Laney's plane on the false pretense that they were investigating either a plane crash or a terrorist incident. Now, who ordered it? Craddick? Not so, says his flack:
"He called them [state police] in and let them do their job," said Bob Richter, the spokesman. "There was an effort made to find out if they could get some federal help in that. It was either turned down, or they found out they couldn't do it. By the end of the day Monday, it was a dead issue [because the lawmakers were found]. . . . I think Craddick is getting credit for a lot of things other people did. He may have said, 'Let's do what we can to find them.'"
What do Richter say exactly? I'm not sure either. 'There was an effort made ...' Passive voice is never a good sign in false denials. (Also, see this follow-up
in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
about Craddick's story.)
DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said DeLay did not seek federal help in forcing the Democrats back to Austin. DeLay did pass along Craddick's inquiry to the Justice Department on whether federal law enforcement could assist in the manhunt, Grella said.
So DeLay never sought federal help, except when he did seek federal help.
Gives a whole new meaning to constituent service ...