Editors’ Blog

Douglas H. Paal the

Douglas H. Paal, the new American envoy to Taiwan, whose appointment was held up by interminable delays over various ethical and ideological questions and controversies, is finally leaving for Taipei today.

Let me expand on

Let me expand on what I said yesterday about the Bush peace plan.

The problem with the plan is not that it’s foolish or misguided, though I think it’s both. The problem is that it’s not a plan. It is simply an endorsement of the position of the Sharon government. What’s dishonest is to present it as though it is in any way advancing the ball toward peace or a final settlement.

When Ariel Sharon came to power he said, in essence, that he just wasn’t going to do business with Yasser Arafat. I don’t agree with that position. But it’s a perfectly reasonable position. Bush has now endorsed that position. Why not just call this what it is?

It’s not unreasonable for the Sharon government or the Bush administration to say they won’t do business with Yasser Arafat’s government. It’s simply a judgment. If for instance, the next Palestinian government were a Hamas government I think it would be sensible and reasonable to say, “I don’t think the Palestinians should be under occupation. I think there should be a Palestinian state. But as long as the Palestinian government is run by Hamas, we won’t agree to anything, period.”

The question is whether the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are fundamentally the same thing.

Any government – let’s call it government A — has a perfect right to say it won’t do business with government B and that it wants government B thrown out. But let’s make sure we have the vocabulary right. There’s a word for this state of relations: war.

Talking Points Memo is

Talking Points Memo is currently on hiatus.

Like cheap donuts the

Like cheap donuts the low quality of President Bush’s new Middle East proposal only becomes completely clear after the first couple bites.

The highlight, the shot in the arm, of this exercise is supposed to be the US endorsement of a Palestinian state, or rather a provisional state. But isn’t that what the Palestinians already have? Or thought they had? What is the Palestinian Authority after all but a provisional state? What they get is a change in vocabulary.

The rub to the proposal is that the Palestinians can have their state – or rather their provisional state – only if they get rid of their current leadership. So they can rule themselves if they choose leaders acceptable to the United States and/or the Israelis. Not to be knee-jerk about this, but isn’t that almost the definition of colonialism, the antithesis of what it means to have your own state? The essence of sovereignty or statehood is that you pick your own leaders. (Grotius defined sovereignty as “that power whose acts are not subject to the control of another, so that they may be made void by the act of any other human will.”) The whole thing makes no sense.

Geopolitics and diplomacy isn’t about ‘fair.’ Israel is more powerful than the Palestinians. And the United States is infinitely more powerful than the both of them. So maybe the Palestinians just get what we tell them they can have. But that’s the law of power and violence. And that law more or less gives the Palestinians free rein to continue their own campaign of unbridled violence. The White House apparently thinks this is deft geopolitical jujitsu: making the door to statehood open wide for the Palestinians, but making it one Arafat can’t pass through. Actually, the whole thing makes no sense. It’s illogical – which doesn’t in itself make for bad policy in this world – but it’s bad policy too. You can’t say it’s a recipe for bloodshed. They’ve got that taken care of. But it is a recipe for more foolishness and wasted time.

Talking Points Memo is

Talking Points Memo is currently on hiatus.

Is the Bush administration

Is the Bush administration creating the new Department of Homeland Security in its own image? It sure seems that way. This article in today’s Washington Times if anything doesn’t ring out the full measure of irony in the story’s topic.

According to the article, the administration’s proposed legislation specifically exempts the department from the federal whistleblower law and the Freedom of Information Act.

Didn’t we find out about the problems that prompted the creation of the Homeland Security Department because of whistleblowers and releases of embarrassing information?

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise since the announcement of the plans for the department were timed to overshadow the very damning testimony of FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley. But still, it’s little short of astounding.

Why isn’t more being made of this?

The John Thune vs.

The John Thune vs. Tim Johnson race in South Dakota is one of the most hotly contested and closely watched of this election cycle. Both Thune and Johnson are popular South Dakota politicians. (If you visit their sites, I warn you, you’ll see many farms.) But the race is widely seen as a proxy battle between President Bush and South Dakota’s senior senator, Tom Daschle (Johnson is Daschle’s protege). The race will also be key in determining control of the Senate.

But DC Republicans — particularly the folks at the RNC and the NRSC — aren’t that happy about the race Thune is running. His staff looks weak; they’re easily provoked by their opposites on Johnson’s campaign; they’ve just gotten goaded into a flurry of negative ads against Johnson; and they’re apparently not that cooperative with the master-strategists in DC.

It’s not that Thune’s out of the race. Far from it. The polls have been neck and neck for some time. And Thune’s got tons of advantages. It’s a strongly Republican state where Bush won by like a million points in 2000.

But the campaign Thune’s team has put together is getting decidely lukewarm reviews. If that doesn’t change, might Republicans shift some resources to other races?

Heres the key exchange

Here’s the key exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Bob Woodward from Monday night.

BLITZER: In the past, when people have guessed who Deep Throat was, like Alexander Haig and John Dean, years ago, you’ve denied it. I noticed yesterday on “Meet the Press” when they said — they asked you about Pat Buchanan, you sort of threw your hands up in the air with a “No comment.” What’s all that about?

WOODWARD: Lots of people have died, people have taken — gone off the list because we’ve taken them off the list. So it’s a narrowing group. And our job is to protect sources. And by further reducing the list, we tend to jeopardize disclosure of that source before he wants to be disclosed.

BLITZER: He’s still alive right now, Deep Throat.

WOODWARD: Last I checked.

BLITZER: And you’re still in touch with him?

WOODWARD: I’m just not going to get into that.

Like I said last night, it just doesn’t sound like a persuasive explanation of Woodward’s change of policy.

Okay heres a question.

Okay, here’s a question. Over the last couple decades I can think of a few individuals who Bob Woodward has ruled out as being Deep Throat. He declined to rule out Pat Buchanan over the weekend. Is anyone aware of an instance between the mid-1970s and last weekend when Woodward similarly declined to rule out a possible Deep Throat candidate when questioned on the matter directly?

If so, please let me know.

Okay I was positive

Okay, I was positive Deep Throat was Patrick J. Buchanan, as I argued and explained in the previous post. Then I got an email from a Talking Points reader who told me that on Hardball tonight Buchanan “gave a rousing denial to Chris Matthews.”

Well, hmmm.

I didn’t think that killed my theory; but I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t seem to land a pretty solid left hook on it. After all, Deep Throat has an obvious reason to lie about his role. The fact that Woodward would so conspicuously refuse to deny the allegation still spoke volumes.

In any case, I flipped on Hardball for the 9 PM replay and watched attentively and with no little apprehension until Buchanan and David Gergen were interviewed in the last two segments.

And now I’m even more positive that it’s Buchanan.

I’ll post the transcript when I get it and then we’ll know word for word. But, as I heard it, Buchanan gave a very artful but also quite clear non-denial denial. I listened very closely for any sort of specific declarative denial. And I never heard it. Gergen denied it; but not Pat.

He said he wouldn’t hang out in a basement parking garage to meet a reporter, that the Nixon loyalists wouldn’t have betrayed Nixon, yada, yada, yada. But no denial.

Look, the real denial talks and ‘yada’ walks. Or something like that. Okay, that didn’t work. But the bottom line, if it’s not him why no real denial?

And for Chris Matthews? You totally didn’t follow up! What’s it now? “I’m Chris Matthews. Let’s play T-ball”?

P.S. Late update: Another reader now writes in to tell me that Buchanan gave an “unqualified denial
to Chris Wallace later on MSNBC.” We’ll see. I mean, I want to confirm this, if true. But to find out I’d have to sit down on the couch and watch hours of MSNBC? Is it really worth it?

P.P.S … Okay, now I have listened to what turns out to have been Forrest Sawyer’s interview with Buchanan on MSNBC. And after a few yadas, Sawyer pressed Buchanan and he responded by what I heard as “I, Patrick Buchanan, am not Deep Throat.” But, frankly, I’m not yet convinced.

Oh Man is Deep

Oh, Man, is Deep Throat ever Pat Buchanan!!!

If you’ve been watching the mild commemorations of Watergate over the last few days you’ll know that John Dean is coming out with a list of several new possible Deep Throat suspects. One of the guys on his shortlist is Pat Buchanan. And a journalism class at the University of Illinois, working under the supervision of Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter William Gaines, undertook an extremely detailed investigation of all the available evidence and produced what I thought was an very compelling argument that Deep Throat was Pat Buchanan.

But good arguments are a dime a dozen.

What started to catch my attention this weekend was that no one seemed to be able to get Buchanan on the phone to deny it. Nor was Woodward denying it, something he had been willing to do with several others accused of being Deep Throat over the last couple decades.

Just now on Wolf Blitzer’s show, Wolf rightly pointed to this reluctance on Woodward’s part and the veteran Postie responded with a mealy-mouthed rationale: the pool of potential suspects is getting smaller and smaller, and if he keeps eliminating people pretty soon only one person will be left.

Sorry. That doesn’t wash.

It’s a good argument, one that’s always occurred to me when Woodward has ruled people out in the past. But why adopt it now after scratching so many people off the list?

I think it’s just what an honest reporter (I have many criticisms of Woodward, but I don’t have any on this count) who wants to protect his sources does when he is caught dead to rights. It’s a lame argument so late in the game but it’s the best he can do when faced with the question.

Even more convincing, however, is Buchanan’s demonstrable unwillingness to deny it.

Have you ever seen Buchanan hide from a microphone? Of course not. If he’s such a Nixon loyalist why isn’t he rushing forth to deny it and even demanding Woodward do the same? Is Pat’s phone disconnected? Has everyone forgotten the address of his home over in McLean, Virginia? He hasn’t been able to return the calls yet? Please.

His unwillingness to deny it seals the deal as far as I’m concerned.

And there’s one more clue that nails it shut. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor but I’m trying to get this posted ASAP.)

One of the great mysteries of Watergate and Deep Throat’s identity is why exactly he’s wanted to remain anonymous for so long. I mean, during Watergate? Sure. For a while after? Fine. But ten, twenty, thirty years later? Deep Throat may be an odd figure in American history. But for most he’d be a hero, someone who turned on a corrupt administration, the ultimate whistleblower, etc.

After all this time, why wouldn’t this person come forward to get some of the limelight?

It’s hard to figure … unless he was someone still operating in those Republican circles where that sort of disloyalty would be very damning and even career-threatening. That is, unless it was someone like Patrick J. Buchanan.

Ugh … If youre

Ugh … If you’re one of those TPM readers who didn’t realize that the earlier post on Cardinal Egan of New York was ohhhhhhh maybe a leeeeeeettle tongue in cheek, buddy, it was tongue in cheek.

Next up, we’ll discuss how the ‘people’ in cartoons aren’t real.

Two fascinating articles one

Two fascinating articles (one from the Post and another in the Times) on the persistence of al Qaida and the way its loose, distributed organizational structure has allowed it to regroup for more attacks. They are both really must-reads.

Here’s one question I have: why is it that once caught al Qaeda operatives so often seem to talk so freely? No doubt, those who get interrogated in places like Morocco (as those discussed in the Post article) get treated to some very persuasive questioning techniques.

But even the ones in American custody frequently seem to talk up a storm once they’re questioned. (But wait! Don’t you think the scene down in Guantanamo is like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting? No, not really.)

I’m not sure what I think of that.

The priest abuse scandal

The priest abuse scandal is certainly the biggest scandal in the Catholic Church today; but it’s not the only one. What about the shameless puffery and preening deceptions of this man, Edward Cardinal Egan, the SO CALLED ‘Archbishop of New York’?

Like most other people inclined to believe the best about people, I had always assumed that when Edward Egan called himself Archbishop of New York that that meant he was really the Archbishop of New York, as in the Archbishop of the five boroughs.

The truth, I’m sorry to say, turns out to be very, very different.

As you can see from this map, Archbishop Egan’s territory includes only Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Most of his archdiocese — if not most of his parishioners — is actually out in the suburbs in places like Westchester and Rockland and Dutchess counties. So even though Egan styles himself ‘Archbishop of New York’ he’s actually not Archbishop, or bishop for that matter, in Brooklyn or Queens.

Now certainly there are a lot of Catholics in Manhattan. But when I think of New York Catholics I think it’s the Outer Boroughs that most readily come to mind, don’t you?

So who’s this other Bishop of New York? Well, that would be Thomas V. Daily, Bishop of Brooklyn. In fact, you don’t have to go much further than the title Daily goes by to see he’s cut from a very different cloth than his colleague on the other side of the river. While Egan is off showboating as ‘Archbishop of New York,’ Daily is content to go by the unassuming title of Bishop of Brooklyn. But in fact, he’s also bishop in Queens too!

So, who really deserves the title? Well, the website of the Diocese of Brooklyn says that Daily’s diocese caters to more than 1.8 million Catholics. I couldn’t find a number on the Archdiocese of New York’s website, but DCL Online (the “bi-weekly eLetter for Catholic professionals“) says Egan’s Archdiocese caters to more than 2.3 million Catholics. (Unlike the Diocese of Brooklyn’s website, the Archdiocese of New York’s doesn’t seem to have any page with statistics. But after what we’ve discussed, is that really a surprise?)

Now, Egan’s flock is clearly bigger — by about half a million people. But how many of those 2.3 million are real New Yorkers? Don’t you figure it’s possible that a half million or more of Egan’s flock are just folks from the suburbs? I’d say it’s pretty likely. And, if true, that would mean that Bishop Daily — content to go by Bishop of Brooklyn — is actually more a New York bishop than Egan.

Edward Egan. When will he come clean?

I havent read an

I haven’t read an article in some time with which I so quickly and reflexively agreed as this one by Mickey Kaus yesterday in Slate. As Mickey says in the piece, many people must have thought in their heart of hearts, but not been comfortable saying: I’m all for homeland security. But do we have to call it ‘homeland security’?

The phrase really does have a deep blood and soil tinge to it which is distinctly Germanic, more than a touch un-American, and a little creepy. I mean, we — that is to say, Americans — don’t really use this word — not just liberals or cosmopolitan Northeasterners, but really any of us. And even the concept is a little fishy from the perspective of American national culture. I would at least have understood if President Bush wanted to call it ‘heartland security‘ because I know he’s into that sort of thing. But ‘homeland security’? I mean, I guess fatherland security would have been worse. But it’s sort of a close call.

One reason to avoid this sort of terminology is that what we’re now calling homeland security has an inherently and likely unavoidable big-botherish tilt to it — I mean in the sense of increased policing and surveillance on the homefront and possibly even a slight militarization of domestic security. But if it has to have some of this tilt why add to it with the vaguely fascistic or at least teutonic verbiage?

Anyway, I’m going to try to make a point not to use the phrase any more on this site (I have less control over terminology in pieces I publish elsewhere). But after reading Mickey’s piece I was curious just how the phrase ‘homeland security’ got so popular.

The story goes something like this.

When the Bush administration came into office they were very big on what they called ‘Homeland Defense.’ By this they meant, essentially, National Missile Defense.

After 9/11 it became quite clear that we did indeed face serious threats on the homefront. But there were much more effective and easier ways for our enemies to attack us than to lob ICBMs from Baghdad or Pyongyang. Thus, the shift in policy and terminology to ‘homeland security.’

But ‘homeland defense’ didn’t start with the Bushies. The phrase really got into the public vocabulary with the release of “Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century,” a report on the future of the US military by something called the National Defense Panel.

The panel was appointed on February 6th 1997 by then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen but the panel itself was mandated FY 1997 Defense Authorization Act. In essence, this was the Republican Congress wanting another look taken at American defense priorities.

When the NDP reported back in December 1997 the gist of their report was that the US should be putting more priority on defense of the American mainland, though the report was equivocal on the question of missile defense as part of the equation. In any case, from that point onward, ‘homeland defense’ was a stock phrase in the vocabulary of national defense talk.

But where did the NDP pick up the ‘homeland defense’ phraseology? That’s not entirely clear. If you do database searches for the phrase pre-1997 the great majority of the hits you get are about South Africa, Germany, Russia and a series of other countries where you might expect this locution has a more natural appeal.

Looking closely, however, the NDP almost certainly got the phrase from National Missile Defense enthusiasts who had been using the term, albeit obscurely, since the mid-1980s. One of the earliest examples I could find, for instance, is a October 16, 1985 Heritage Foundation backgrounder by W. Bruce Weinrod in which the author helpfully notes that “In the mid-1960s, Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) development made a U.S. homeland defense problematical.”

Another pro-SDI report released in December 1985 helpfully noted that “The side that solves homeland defense problems first, however, would be in the catbird seat.” Later, just after the Bush administration left office, the former head of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Henry Cooper, wrote with frustration that the “Fragile support for a U.S. homeland defense is threatened by disharmony, and misrepresentations propagated to advocate parochial interests.”

All this fun stuff aside though, the phrase doesn’t seemed to have picked up much steam in the mainstream press — that is to say, outside of technical or policy journals, and particularly the defense policy press — until the early Clinton administration. Actually, the first example I saw of the phrase in a daily is an April 1st, 1994 Washington Times OpEd by none other than Strom Thurmond in which the old codger wrote the following lament …

The Clinton administration has said that worldwide proliferation of mass-destructive weapons is a top priority. But the administration has placed too little emphasis on the counter-proliferation value of missile defense and has demonstrated no sense of urgency in getting improved defenses into the field. A limited homeland defense is dead for all practical purposes, even though we could soon face a renewed threat from resurgent Russian nationalism and militarism. Worse yet, the administration appears willing to accept ABM Treaty limitations on theater missile defenses, the kind intended to protect our troops abroad and our allies from threats like that of North Korea.

Actually to my great chagrin, I later realized that a year earlier — also in the Washington Timesthen-Senator Malcoln Wallop cautioned that efforts to build theater missile defense systems not “prevent us from building homeland defenses.” But between you and me, I’d rather just pretend Strom said it first because having the thing rolled out into the public debate by Strom Thurmond on April Fool’s Day is just a bit too good to pass up.

Anyway, let’s ditch ‘homeland security’ and come up with a more American phrase.

God is it ever

God, is it ever late. But this story is just too funny to pass up — and the dailies for some reason don’t run the really juicy detail. For some time now the Governor of the South Carolina has been pulling out every stop to prevent the federal government from depositing plutonium in his state — which I guess is pretty understandable. It’s sort of a mini-version of the whole controversy about Yucca Mountain out in Nevada, where they want to store all the spent nuclear power plant fuel.

Anyway, ever since John Calhoun’s time the South Carolinians have been ready to nullify federal laws and orders and generally lead their Southern brethren down the dark path of treason against the United States pretty much at the drop of a hat. Of course, Andrew Jackson made it clear you couldn’t do this about one hundred and seventy years ago and the Civil War sort of settled the matter for good about thirty years later. But yesterday South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges tried out a comedic latter-day version of nullification by declaring a state of emergency and basically outlawing any transit of weapons-grade plutonium on South Carolina roads and highways.

So if you have any and you were planning on driving it through South Carolina, well … don’t! Because you’re not allowed to do that anymore.

Anyway, what exactly Hodges is up to isn’t exactly clear. But part of his rationale is pretty damn funny. You’ll remember that Jose Padilla — gang-banger bad seed turned al Qaida bad seed — is now being held in a military prison down in South Carolina. Hodge’s new argument is basically this … Look, you’ve got the Padilla guy down here and you’re saying he was going to build a dirty bomb by stealing nuclear materials, right? And now you’re going to bring nuclear materials into the state? So close to Padilla? After he said he wants to make a dirty bomb? Hell, that’s just too dangerous. Too close. No can do. Sorry.

Look, I’m not making this up. Here are the first grafs of the governor’s executive order

WHEREAS, according to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a “known terrorist” with connections to al Qaeda who allegedly planned to build and explode a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States has been recently captured by federal authorities and is presently being detained as an enemy combatant in Charleston, South Carolina;

WHEREAS, a “dirty bomb” is a conventional incendiary device laced with radioactive materials that upon detonation scatters and disperses radioactive particles into the atmosphere, thereby exposing potentially thousands of persons to radiation;

WHEREAS, weapons-grade plutonium is a primary ingredient utilized in creating dirty bombs;

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Energy has publicly announced that it will begin sending truck shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to the Savannah River Site located in Aiken and Barnwell Counties, South Carolina as soon as June 15, 2002;

WHEREAS, when, in the Governor’s opinion, a danger exists to the person or property of any citizen and the peace and tranquility of the State or of any political subdivision or particular area of the State designated by him is threatened, the Governor shall declare an emergency and may take such measures and do all and every act and thing which he may deem necessary in order to prevent violence or threats of violence to the person or property of citizens of the State and to maintain peace, tranquility and good order, pursuant to § 1-3-410, et seq., of the South Carolina Code of Law

Poor Ashcroft. Some posts just pretty much write themselves.

I guess it wouldnt

I guess it wouldn’t be Talking Points if I didn’t have readers writing in with various mixtures of surprise, bewilderment and scorn for the attention I give to the seemingly endless saga of Chandra Levy, the bouncy twenty-four-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern whose life was tragically cut short a bit more than a year ago by a person or persons unknown.

It bewilders me a bit too, I guess. I’ve never had much interest in or patience with this sort of story. And my path to preoccupation with it began in what I suspect was an uncommon manner.

You certainly wouldn’t know it today. But back before a year ago, Gary Condit was the sort of pol that right-thinking Washington — the supercilious center — just loved. He decried partisanship. He decried Bill Clinton. He pretty much always said what your standard talking head wanted to hear.

So when a woman in DC went missing and it was pretty obvious that she was Condit’s girlfriend it pissed me off that pretty much everyone in town was giving the guy a pass — give a pass, that is, to someone who was always happy to dish a little cheap moralism for the usual suspects in the Washington press corps. Of course, later, for many the whole Condit thing got conflated with the Clinton thing, which I never really understood. And it’s sort of hard to think back now to a time when anybody was cutting Condit any slack. But that’s what sparked my original interest.

Last summer I had a decent number of readers write in and say that it was either disgusting or bizarre that I was giving the issue so much attention in these virtual pages. Or, at least as often, I’d hear that it was terrible that I was paying so much attention to something so trivial and meaningless when President Bush was running the country into the ditch.

I got a number of those today, actually. And I guess those comments just make me wonder why some people don’t seem to think there’s enough time in the day to think critically about national politics, the war on terrorism, and the still-baffling murder mystery which took place in one’s own town. Or the history of the Dutch Republic, for that matter, which is likely more intrinsically interesting than all of them wrapped together. But that’s another matter.

I guess the point is that this site is not only about politics or how bad the Bush administration is. It’s about a lot of things.

Anyway, one other point on Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui is now telling the court that he was not involved in the 9/11 plot and that he can prove it. Now, I don’t know what Moussaoui can prove or not prove. Frankly, the guy seems a bit, as my grandmother used to say, ‘touched in the head.’ That aside though what’s really weird is that there’s a decent chance Moussaoui is telling the truth.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Moussaoui is just some innocent. I have no doubt that he was here training for just the sort of mission the 9/11 guys pulled off. But was he part of that operation? There are actually a lot of intelligence and law enforcement types (a minority perhaps, but quite a few) who don’t think so.

What’s sort of chilling is that he might actually have been training for the next mission. And his associates — the ones who weren’t quite so obvious — might still be out there milling about.

Wow Nice catch by

Wow! Nice catch by TPM reader WG.

I’m never one who likes seeing speakers heckled or booed at college commencement speeches, pretty much no matter who they are.

But check out the last graf of this AP story on President Bush’s speech on volunteerism at Ohio State University today.

Bush was invited to speak at the Ohio State commencement by representatives of the graduating class. But immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university’s speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling would be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged that Bush be greeted with a “thunderous” ovation.

Yikes. Talk about zero tolerance.

Heres some good evidence

Here’s some good evidence that you don’t have to be an out-of-favor (Christie Whitman) or out-to-lunch (Spence Abraham) cabinet secretary to sound like a complete goof. But, man, does it help …

A couple reporter friends

A couple reporter friends and I made a trip this morning up to the part of DC’s Rock Creek park where the remains of Chandra Levy were found a few weeks back. The quick and dirty story I can tell you pretty quickly: we didn’t see much.

Admittedly, I was hoping we’d maybe find a bone or maybe a Vote Gary! button or something. But ever since the Levy family investigators found Chandra’s shin last week (after it had — if you believe the DC Metro police — been planted there by a dead-beat racoon), the cops have been back in force cordoning the place off and not letting anyone get anywhere near it.

Why this matters exactly — since everyone and his brother had the run of the place for a week — isn’t exactly clear. But that’s how it is.

Anyway, a few observations.

First of all, we could not get close enough to see the specific area where the remains were found. But we could see enough to get a sense of the sort of area in which it happened, how dense the foliage is, how steep the incline is — stuff like that.

And here’s the deal, the foliage is really dense. The place in question may be as little as a few hundred yards from residential homes but you might as well be in the middle of a forest. Scratch the word ‘park’ from your consciousness when you think of the scene and replace it with the movie title ‘Deliverance.’

Second, there aren’t a lot of people around. My friends and I spent a while driving around that section of the park trying to find an access toward the crime scene that wasn’t blocked by a police car with a couple cops kickin’ it, working on a donut, or playing solitaire on the on-board laptop. In maybe twenty or thirty minutes of driving around the different little roads and by the numbered picnic grounds we saw a total of two people. One was a guy parked on the side of the road with a van. I had the sense that he was probably also dumping a body. So he wouldn’t have given anyone much grief. The other guy was either a homeless guy or a jogger. Or maybe he was a self-improving homeless jogger. It was a little unclear. Anyway, point being, we were there in the late morning. And I think you probably could have done a lot at that time of the day and not have worried that people were going to see you.

Third, there were a lot of cops tight around the crime scene. But it was hard not to get the sense that the reason they were there was that it was so *&$%@#& embarrassing to have missed the leg bone that they pretty much just had to go there and hang out for a few days and put up a lot of tape just to live the whole thing down.

Fourth, this is pretty speculative. But having seen the lay of the land here is what occurred to me. In the area in question there is basically a plateau where there are some picnic areas and some other places to hang out and either have a picnic, throw a ball around, have sex, or kill someone. Then sloping down from that plateau is a ravine that’s quite steep — in many places 45% or greater. And at the bottom is a tiny brook. Chandra’s body was found a bit more than half-way down one of those ravines. You can see most of this on this map from the Post.

From seeing the terrain, one thing that’s very clear is that no one took her body up the ravine. It’s just too steep and that would be the one place where someone could potentially see you. What sort of made intuitive sense to me, though, is that someone may have basically shoved the body over that ravine and then it rolled down to the approximate area in which it was found.

This is morbid, I admit. But that seemed to me like the most logical supposition.

One other point, from various circumstantial evidence, I think it’s quite clear that she went there to meet someone she knew. But we’ll get to that later. And I still have a hunch — and a bit of information — that tells me this case is going to blow open sooner rather than later.

TPM makes special personal

TPM makes special personal visit to police-cordoned-off Chandra crime scene. More later tonight.

As you know last

As you know, last Thursday’s surprise presidential announcement of a major restructuring of the nation’s homeland security apparatus was in no way connected to the testimony that day of FBI agent Coleen Rowley or poll slippage due the ever-mounting number of FBI screw-ups. In fact it was a triumph of leak-discipline pulled off by the Bush White House getting a jump on the bureaucracy by presenting the bureaucracy and the congress with an already-put-together blueprint for how it was all going to happen.

Yep.

No doubt this is why Andy Card, Nick Calio and a few of Tom Ridge’s people yesterday had to tell a presumably somewhat bewildered group of congressional aides that the White House wouldn’t be able to send over any actual legislation for upwards of a month. (“Two to three weeks” is what the Post article actually says.)

(The Post reporter who just filed this story is none other than Dana Milbank, who wrote the earlier rather glowing piece on the White House secrecy triumph … catch-up for earlier ingenuousness? We report, you decide 😉 … )

Let’s not even try to carve any delicate humor out of this one. Clearly, if the ‘get the jump on the Hill and the bureaucracy’ line were even vaguely true, they would have had this done already. No question. The fact that they haven’t confirms — as much as anything like this ever can be confirmed — that they were trying to get a jump on the polls and the media cycle, not the ‘bureaucracy.’

And in case you’re wondering whether there was any poll number deterioration, check out this snippet from today’s Cook Report

Then the last Gallup Poll, taken before the president’s Thursday night
announcement of a new Homeland Security Department, showed his approval
rating dropping seven points in a week, to 70 percent, the lowest since
Sept. 11, with his disapproval rating up six points to 23 percent, the
highest since the September tragedy. Although it’s dangerous to read too
much into any single poll, what in effect happened is that the Gallup
polling simply came into line with most other surveys that showed the
president in the low 70s and on the verge of dropping into the 60s —
still good numbers, but no longer considered “stratospheric.”

There was also an intangible that seemed to be taking hold before the
announcement. Pollsters and other political operatives had begun
suggesting that there was a certain uneasiness among Americans in recent
weeks, that things didn’t seem to be in control. There was a certain
frustration from the endless warnings of upcoming terrorist acts against
our country and that we still had not managed to track down Osama bin
Laden. In some private polling, but not in the Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political
Report samplings, there was also a drop in “right direction” numbers,
with the “wrong track” column surging. And even though it was not
directly rubbing off on the president, it was not what a president’s
advisers like to see happening.

Lucky for the White House the president really does have an aggressive polling operation. Or else they might not have seen this one coming.

Phew!

Not to Josh Green: Buddy, move quick. You can probably squeeze a quick Oped out of this. The polling angle never dies!

Great or not so

Great (or not so great) moments from the TPM mailbag …

Russ H. to TPM
Sun, 9 Jun 2002 10:45:16 -0700

irrefutable facts I never see on your site as written by David Horowitz…

How The Left Undermined America’s Security
By David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | February 18, 2002

TPM to Russ H.
Sunday, June 09, 2002 8:36 AM

mr. horowitz is a reckless fool. i’m not going to slog through his article. but if you would like to point out some issues or examples he raises then I’d be happy to consider them. josh

Russ H. to TPM
Sun, 9 Jun 2002 10:58:23 -0700

Hello Mr. Josh:

No sir! The only reckless fool is you and your inept and inane whining that is showcased on your site proves it…

None the less, thanks for the reply…

If and when you leftist parasites ever get your act together then maybe you’ll be taken seriously…

Have a good day…

TPM to Russ H.
Sunday, June 09, 2002 8:54 AM

Okay, Russ. I tried to talk seriously with you. But clearly you’re an imbecile. You’re welcome to your laughable friend Horowitz. Josh

Russ H. to TPM
Mon, 10 Jun 2002 09:10:13 -0700

Well Good Morning you whining GORON:

Let’s see if this reply is up to the, “drivel standards” that is the norm for your site…

Well of course it is but that’s hardly a suprise coming from a someone who either was hypocritical enough or stupid enough to support Democrats and their whore, Gore…

I can see where your disgust with Horowitz is really a reflection of your inability to apply critical thinking but then again that would mean understanding of the basic facts…
We both know you leftist/liberal parasites have a real hard time with facts since it tends to undercut your positions everytime…

My one and only hope is that you don’t have kids…. It would be a crime against humanity for you to keep spreading that stupidity gene that so seems to have had a large part of forming what passes for your makeup and intelligence…

People of my political

People of my political tendencies have many reasons for disliking former FBI Director Louis Freeh. He a) was an uptight moralizer who gave the Clinton White House no end of headaches, b) hobnobbed with Hill Republicans to no good purpose, and c) presided over an FBI which was responsible for a series of big time screw-ups which ended up creating even more headaches for the then-Clinton White House. Basically, Freeh inhabited a netherworld created by the antagonism between Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans in which accountability did not exist.

So Clinton partisans have reason to dislike him and want to saddle him with having left the FBI unprepared for 9/11. But, my god, you don’t have to look very hard to find lots of justification for doing so. I’ve been working for a bit more than a week on an article about problems with the FBI and US counter-terrorism efforts and the more I learn the less I think of Freeh. He really blew it. For everything that ended up counting on 9/11 he was a really big time disaster.

What’s ironic is that Mueller and George Tenet are the ones getting grilled because as nearly as I can tell they’re both pretty solid. In Mueller’s case he was already talking about doing stuff to clean up Freeh’s mess even before 9/11, even though he only took office slightly before then. As to Tenet, my reporting has also given me a better sense of him and the work that he’s done since he came in in 1997.

Talking Points Memo piece

Talking Points Memo piece today in the New York Post on how the clamor for 9/11 investigations led to the new Bush Homeland Security plan.

The whole idea of

The whole idea of intelligence failures — how they come about, and how one properly structures an intelligence service — has quickly become central to much of the news we’re reading about the war on terrorism and the reorganization of the federal government.

I little while back I reviewed Ernest R. May’s recent book Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France, a study of one of the great intelligence failures of the 20th century: the French failure to predict the timing and and strategy of Hitler’s devastating lightning conquest.

It’s a great book. And May makes a strong argument that the Fall of France itself was principally due to this catastrophic intelligence failure.

But the book is also a crisp and clarifying exploration of how intelligence agencies can have lots of assets and lots of information but still not be able to use either effectively — often with fatal consequences.

This, of course, is precisely what seems to have been the case with America’s intelligence agencies in the lead-up to 9/11. And you can’t read May’s book — written in 2000 — without getting a very clear sense that he was quite aware of this. Here’s one snippet from the introduction …

The story is particularly well worth recalling now, for in the post-Cold War era, the United States and other seemingly victorious Western democracies exhibit many of the same characteristics that France and Britain did in 1938-40 — arrogance, a strong disinclination to risk life in battle, heavy reliance on technology as a substitute, and governmental procedures poorly designed for anticipating or coping with ingenious challenges from the comparatively weak.

If you want to think deeply about this whole question of intelligence failures and learn a lot about how not to organize and acculturate an intelligence service, read May’s book. It’s really, really good. And it’s the book to read on this subject.

Honey weve had this

“Honey, we’ve had this bone in the burrow for months now and we haven’t done anything with it. Do you mind if I toss it out to make room for other edibles and bric-a-brac?”

This isn’t a quote from today’s Washington Post article on the Chandra investigation.

But pretty damn close!

The DC police seem confident that they didn’t actually miss Chandra Levy’s leg bone in their search of the apparent crime scene in Rock Creek Park a couple weeks ago. What they actually think happened is that some animal had the bone in his or her burrow and just now decided to toss it. Chief Ramsey told the Post that …

there was a “very strong probability” that an animal indeed had retrieved it, possibly from a burrow. That hypothesis is based on information the police received from the National Zoo, which told investigators that the animals making this part of the park their home could have abandoned the area during the search and may have been replaced by others after police left. Under this theory, the bone may have been uncovered by an animal cleaning out an old den.

Man, you can’t make this stuff up.

The new focus on animal burrows and dens places the police in the difficult position of explaining why these were not searched more thoroughly. Ramsey said search teams looked in burrows and sometimes poked around with sticks. But he said they saw no need to dig them up until the appearance of the tibia. “Animals got hold of the bones; they’re scattered all over. They’re pulling them out of burrows,” Ramsey said.

Damn animals!

Believe it or not this excuse may actually be more ridiculous than it appears on the surface. The idea seems to be that some animal had this bone in his collection for almost a year and then just in the mere week since the crack Chandra investigative team pulled out of his neighborhood he decided to toss it. Or perhaps he bugged out during the search and some new guy who moved into his den afterward decided he didn’t want the bone and decided to chuck it.

Yeah.

I mean, it’s not that this couldn’t’t have happened. But given what has come before, I think you’ve got to ask the following awkward but unavoidable question: Who has more credibility? The DC Metro Police? Or a small burrowing mammal?

The question pretty much answers itself, doesn’t it?

And further information from the Post article tends to confirm this. The bone was not found “in plain view. The bone was under a pile of leaves and embedded in the ground.” The fact that it was embedded in the ground makes the police/zoo geek hypothesis about its being a recent plant by a scofflaw animal seem pretty far-fetched, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it take more than a few days for a bone to get covered with leaves and imbedded in the ground?

A slightly less skeptical article in the Washington Times adds that Cmdr. Christopher LoJacono of the D.C. Police Forensic Science Division earlier said that the bone “substantial animal activity” and that police note the bone was found “within 3 feet of what appeared to be an animal’s den.”

What’s a bit sad about this is that I’ve always had the impression — and I still think this is true — that Chief Ramsey himself is a serious character. He was brought in from somewhere in the Midwest I think to shake the place up. But he’s only one man. And the ridiculousness of the DC Metro police is the combined work of many. The last graf of the Post article has Ramsey uttering this anguished lament.

“We’re working as hard as we can to find out who’s responsible for the murder of Chandra Levy,” Ramsey said at the news conference. “I wish we had found all the remains, but obviously we didn’t. . . . It’s easy for people to sit back and Monday morning quarterback.”

Buddy, you got that right.

According to Dana Milbanks

According to Dana Milbank’s article in the Post, planning for yesterday’s announcement began on April 23rd — a contention which, if understood in any meaningful sense, I doubt. The idea apparently was to keep the plan secret for as long as possible from the “experts” and “bureaucrats” who will try to slow-roll and kill the plan. The price of that secrecy, however, was having the plan devised by four men — Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels — none of whom have any apparent knowledge or experience with law enforcement, counter-terrorism, intelligence or disaster preparedness.

What a coup.

Next up, the big four release their master-plan for information-sharing among key government agencies …

Egg meet Tom Ridges

Egg, meet Tom Ridge’s face.

Tom Ridge’s face, meet egg.

Today Tom Ridge is telling everyone who will listen that the new plan for a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security was the administration’s plan all along.

Here’s Ridge a bit more than a week ago telling a National Journal editorial board meeting that he’d advise the president to veto pretty much exactly the same plan.

Ive had a few

I’ve had a few people write in to say I’ve jumped the gun or been irresponsibly critical of the DC cops in assuming that the human leg bone found yesterday near the Chandra crime scene actually belonged to Chandra Levy. Admittedly, not as many have written in saying that as have written in to say that the new TPM face shot makes the author look a) “too confrontational”, b) “menacing” or c) “like a serial killer.” But that’s for another post.

As to the bone, let me rattle off just the first three utterly devastating rejoinders to this criticism.

First, I made clear that the bone has not yet been DNA-confirmed as Chandra’s. But for the moment I’m happy to go with the DC Medical Examiner, who believes it is Chandra’s.

Second, even if we assume that the human tibia found yesterday is not Chandra’s, can’t we still agree that it probably would have made sense for the cops to retrieve all other readily available human tibias in the immediate vicinity just to see if they might belong to Chandra?

Third, if there are really more than a few unretrieved and unidentified human tibias in that section of Rock Creek Park which don’t belong to Chandra Levy, can’t we just agree that this might point to another possible shortcoming of the DC police?

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