Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • 'This Thing Is A Turkey'

    IN BOB WOODWARD'S NEW BOOK, ""The Agenda,'' White House aide George Stephanopoulos comes across more like a battered wife than a key strategic adviser to the president. He has been subjected to so many senseless tirades by Bill Clinton that he has grown numb. Stephanopoulos ""sometimes thought his primary function was to get yelled at first thing in the morning,'' Woodward writes. Stephanopoulos has stopped listening to Clinton during his ""purple fits'' because his words ""really don't matter.'' The president is not only volatile but fickle. Clinton constantly contradicts himself, agreeing with whomever he spoke to last. ""The worst thing about him is that he never makes a de-cision,'' Stephanopoulos tells budget director Leon Panetta. ...
  • Grace &Amp; Iron

    IT'S NOT CLEAR FROM THE PICTURE WHO IS more doting, the throng of reporters and photographers, or her proud husband, the president. Jackie Kennedy was a national treasure, and almost everyone, even jaded members of the press, felt a little proprietary. Maybe she did spend too much money on clothes and for new wallpaper at the White House, but so what? She deserved the best. In a way, many Americans of that era believed that they deserved her. After the dull '50s, the nation had entered an age of "poetry and power," according to Robert Frost, the poet laureate who spoke at JFK's Inauguration. If Americans were willing to pay any price, share any burden, why shouldn't they be entitled--if only briefly--to a queen? Jackie Kennedy was regal, yet also vibrant and so young (31 years old in 1961, the year she became First Lady). In this New Frontier, the pioneers would dine with silver spoons. ...
  • Trial By Unfriendly Fire

    POLICYMAKERS LIKE TO THINK of air power as a precise instrument. Ground troops still have to slog it out the old-fashioned way-slow and messy, too many body bags-but the air force-can swoop in with a surgical strike" of "smart" bombs. Air power is seductive-seemingly swift and sure, neat and clean. For a president who wants to demonstrate American resolve without having to expend lives-or political capital-using air power is an almost irresistible temptation. It is also a snare and delusion, as President Clinton discovered last week in two familiar trouble spots: ...
  • Deadly Mole

    IN THE SPY TRADE, COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OPERATIVES are sometimes called "spiders" for the webs they weave. The greatest of all spiders, the black widow of the cold war, was James Jesus Angleton. For nearly 20 years, through the 1950s and '60s, Angleton sat surrounded by stacks of top-secret files in his office at the CIA, the blinds always drawn, the room dark even at midday, except for the tiny glow of Angleton's ever-present cigarette. Trusting no one, scheming always, Angleton was searching for a mole-in the jargon of spies, "a deep-penetration agent," a senior American official secretly controlled by the Kremlin, burrowed deep into the inner sanctum of the CIA. Angleton never found the mole. Instead, he went slowly mad, lost in a maze of his own making, self-exiled in a he]] he called a "wilderness of mirrors." ...
  • Sins Of A Paranoid Age

    In 1949, when most Americans wanted nothing more than to "go to the movies and drink Coke," as W. Averell Harriman once put it, the Soviets exploded a nuclear bomb. The onset of the cold war came as a cruel surprise. The United States had just won World War II. Was World War III around the corner? By 1951, when the CIA received an intelligence tip that seemed to indicate that the Russians were about to corner the world market in LSD, anxiety about communism had become paranoia. The CIA was particularly obsessed with mind control. At show trials in the East bloc, innocents with glazed eyes were confessing to impossible crimes, while American POWs in the Korean War were reportedly being "brainwashed" by the Chinese. Had the communists developed some new mind-bending drug that could be used as a mass weapon against the West? ...
  • The Real Cover-Up

    In Washington, in the early afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, the phones went dead. Cars swerved, ignored red lights, honked angrily. In a taxicab, Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan anxiously watched people "leaving the city as fast as they could. There was the sense," he later recalled, "that something awful had happened, and something more awful might happen." Moynihan reached for his billfold, which contained a map of roads leading to the cave in West Virginia where subcabinet officials were supposed to meet in the event of a nuclear attack. He put away the billfold. The traffic was so snarled he couldn't get there. ...
  • Who Shot Jfk?

    CIA: A trove of government documents brings out the conspiracy buffs again. They're right about a cover-up, but it wasn't a plot to kill the president. ...
  • Playing Globocop

    Twas not what the poets would call a famous victory. The Somali warlord and his men had plenty of warning. At 1:30 a.m., searchlights bathed Mohamed Farah Aidid's compound; only four hours later did the United Nations force arrive. Using women and children as human shields, Aidid's henchmen greeted the Moroccan, Italian, French and Pakistani troops with a blast of gunfire. A grenade was tossed into a jeep, and four U.N. soldiers lay dead. U.S. troops were supposed to be kept safely out of the fray, but 130 American soldiers, light infantry from Fort Drum, N.Y., had to be rushed in. As day broke, the U.N. toll included 46 wounded, including an American GI cut by flying glass. As for Aidid, he had long since escaped. ...
  • And Now, 'Clinton's War'?

    For the World War II generation, the model of leadership was General of the Army George S. Marshall, the "Organizer of Victory." Marshall's motto was "Don't fight the problem. Decide it!" Steely and gruff, he was a Big Picture man; his only advice to the drafters of the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe was, "Avoid trivia." "I have no feelings," he liked to say, "except those I reserve for Mrs. Marshall." ...
  • Just As Safe At Any Speed

    It's been a tough year for General Motors' big pickup trucks. In February the parents of an Atlanta teenager won a $105 million verdict against GM after their son, Shannon Moseley, died in a pickup that burst into flames in a side collision. Then there was NBC. To dramatize the alleged fire danger, the network's "Dateline NBC" news team rigged "sparking devices" to the same type of truck Moseley died in-fakery that was caught and exposed by GM itself. ...
  • Pardon Me

    When presidents want to do something they know is highhanded and sure to be controversial, they often try to pick a time when the usual watchdogs are asleep. Weekends will do; better yet are holidays, when Congress is out and reporters are off carving up turkeys instead of public officials. Richard Nixon chose a Saturday night-1973-to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Last week George Bush used Christmas Eve, one of the least-watched television nights of the year, as the occasion to pardon former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others who had been convicted or charged in the interminable Iran-contra scandal. ...
  • Too Soon Old, Too Late Wise

    The students of Prof. Paul Weiss at Catholic University of America had to be careful about where they sat in his classroom. Too far from the podium and Professor Weiss, who is a bit hard of hearing, might not catch their questions. Too close and they risked getting an errant whack from his cane. But over the years the students kept coming back because Weiss taught them to think. "He runs the class by throwing out a series of theses. Then he basically says, 'Attack me'," recalls a former student, Father Robert Spitzer, 39, now a philosophy professor at Seattle University. ...
  • 'There Is Always Something'

    In "All the King's Men," the greatest of political novels, Willie Stark, "the Boss," tells his minion, Jack Burden, to dig up some dirt on an opponent, a judge who is seemingly above reproach. "There is always something," says the Boss. "Maybe not on the judge," replies Burden. The Boss offers his philosophy of life: "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something." ...
  • Mr. God Goes To Washington

    No fewer than five U.S. presidents wanted to fire FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, but none dared. "You don't fire God," explained John F. Kennedy. After all, Hoover, through his wiretaps, knew that Kennedy had slept with a suspected German spy during World War II and continued, as president of the United States, to share a girlfriend with a Mafia don. When Richard Nixon's top aides urged him to get rid of Hoover, Nixon responded, "He's got files on everybody, goddam it." Hoover had earlier informed the president that he was surrounded by a "ring of homosexualists." ...
  • A Crisis Of Leadership

    For a moment, at least, they were able to recapture the old spirit of struggle. "We're gonna stand! And fight!" shouted Benjamin L. Hooks. "Until hell freezes over!" The audience rose and cheered wildly. But the mood at the 82nd annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Houston last week was mostly one of frustration. George Bush had just lifted sanctions against South Africa, a cause dear to the civil-rights movement. The president had already put the movement on the defensive by casting the civil rights legislation before Congress as a "quota" bill. And by naming Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Bush had presented leaders of the NAACP with a vexing dilemma. Oppose Thomas and an organization devoted to the advancement of African-Americans risked denying one of their own a seat on the highest court in the land. Support him, and they stood to empower a man who opposes policies most black leaders have championed for decades. ...
  • Where Does He Stand?

    All civil-rights leaders ever do, Clarence Thomas once said, is "bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and whine." He has accused black leaders of creating a "cult mentality" that has "hypnotized black Americans into a mindless political trance." He has attacked affirmative action as more hindrance than help. He regards welfare as a trap that prolongs dependency and breaks up families. And he could make it more difficult for poor teenagers to get abortions. ...
  • Where Did All The Money Go?

    When the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, Va., voted back in 1987 to build themselves a new $100 million government center, it didn't seem so extravagant. After all, Fairfax County was the richest in the United States, riding high on the real-estate boom sweeping the Washington, D.C., suburbs. So why shouldn't the steps be paved with granite imported from Finland, and the lobby paneled with mahogany flown in from South America? The supervisors themselves were sure to stay lean and mean - working out in the new gym equipped with a sound system and $37,000 of fitness equipment. ...
  • A Matter Of Influence

    Clark Clifford's memoirs richly detail his public life. But what about his work for private clients? ...
  • The Quayle Handicap

    Most Americans still wouldn't trust him to run the country. Can he win the public's confidence? ...
  • Bush's Heart Scare

    A sudden arrhythmia raises questions about his health-and Quayle ...
  • The Reluctant Warrior

    The scene will undoubtedly be used in campaign videos when George Bush runs for re-election in 1992. "This will not stand," the president sternly vowed only a few days after Iraq invaded Kuwait. "This will not stand. " Resolute words from a strong leader, sure to move voters and make them relive a famous victory. But at the time, the reaction of the president's chief military adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, was less enthusiastic. ...
  • What Is Bush Up To In Iraq?

    Most Americans just want to bring the troops home. They can't tell a Kurd from a Shiite, and they don't much care whether Iraq splits into pieces. But for policymakers in Washington, the success of the gulf war was a reaffirmation of America's role as global policeman, and a reminder that force or the threat of it can be a very useful nightstick. As a result, the Fourth of July fetes will probably come late for at least some U.S. soldiers. Gen. Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested last week that the military will keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein "for some months to come." George Bush shied away from a timetable, but added that "normal relations with the United States cannot be effected with Saddam Hussein still calling the shots." ...
  • Bush And The Generals

    ' It has become conventional wisdom that American presidents should leave war to the generals. Megalomaniacal dictators like Hitler might blunder in as "Feldherr'--lord of the field--but in a democracy, the wise commander in chief delegates to the professionals. Presidents who forget this maxim--like Lyndon Johnson trying to run the war from his Tuesday lunches at the White House or Jimmy Carter micromanaging the disastrous Desert One rescue operation over an open phone line from the Oval Office--have come to regret it. ...
  • 'Strong And Steady'

    Every president, in wartime, has an image he wants to project. During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt was confident, even cocky, with his jaunty cigarette holder and fireside chats. John F. Kennedy wanted to be effortlessly cool. "I guess this is the week I earn my salary," he winked as the Cuban missile crisis broke. Lyndon Johnson wanted to be tough and resolute in Vietnam, but he became self-pitying and obsessed, spending his nights in the basement of the White House picking bombing targets. ...
  • The Bush Court

    With Brennan's retirement, the president can build a conservative majority. But he faces a bitter fight in the Senate that could cost him politically. ...

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