Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • Death of a Terrorist

    The Americans had come close to killing him before, but he'd managed to escape. Not this time.
  • Transition

    Weinberger was called "Cap the Knife" for slashing social programs in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He became "Cap the Shovel" as Ronald Reagan's secretary of Defense, raising the defense budget by some $2 trillion. Intensely loyal, he refused to turn on Reagan when indicted in the Iran-contra scandal. George H.W. Bush pardoned him in 1992, calling him "a true American patriot."Nofziger liked to play the role of gruff-tough political hatchet man, with an edge of whimsy. The ex-newsman had a key role in Reagan's political ascendancy and then became a well-known consultant. He was found guilty of lobbying violations in 1988, but his conviction was later overturned.
  • The Shot Heard Round the World

    He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mind-set--and the forces that made it that way.
  • O'Connor's Rightful Heir?

    When conservative Washington lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court talk about "the Greenhouse Effect," they don't mean global warming. The Greenhouse in question is Linda Greenhouse, the longtime and esteemed Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times. The "effect" is to subtly push Supreme Court justices to the left. Unless a jurist comes to the court with very strongly held, or even fixed, conservative views, there is a tendency to be seduced by the liberal legal establishment that dominates at elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. Those schools produce a disproportionate number of the law clerks who generally draft opinions for the justices, as well as the sort of professor routinely tapped as a source by Greenhouse, who is regarded as a legal scholar in her own right.That, at least, is the view of conservatives like U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman, who popularized the term some years ago. The chief "victim" of the Greenhouse Effect is usually said to be...
  • Full Speed Ahead

    After 9/11, Bush and Cheney pressed for more power--and got it. Now, predictably, the questions begin. Behind the NSA spying furor.
  • Taken by Storm

    Hurricane Katrina was less than 24 hours away. The Category 5 hurricane threatened to overwhelm the dikes surrounding the city, much of which sits below sea level. The mayor had ordered a mandatory evacuation. Who would choose to stick around? ...
  • Michael Chertoff: 'What The Hell Is Going On?'

    The lowest moment, Michael Chertoff recalls, came at about 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, three days after Katrina struck. An NPR interviewer asked the secretary of Homeland Security what he was doing about the thousands of people stranded at the Convention Center. Chertoff had no good answer. Hanging up from the interview, he turned and said to an aide, "What the hell is going on with the Convention Center?" Chertoff called his beleaguered FEMA chief, Mike Brown, and was told that there were only 1,500 people there. He ordered Homeland Security's Operations Center to "get some eyeballs" on the situation. Still, the answer came back: only 1,500 people. On the third go-round, Chertoff asked the head of the Federal Protection Service to take a look personally. This time the reported number shot up, to 10,000 to 15,000. Why the discrepancy? The earlier inspectors had failed to look in rooms "deep inside the building," says Chertoff.It may seem remarkable that the secretary of Homeland...
  • Bush in the Bubble

    He has a tight circle of trust, and he likes it that way. But members of both parties are urging Bush to reach beyond the White House walls. How he governs--and how his M.O. stacks up historically.
  • Top Gun's Tailspin

    Randall (Duke) Cunningham has never been shy about his exploits. When he first ran for Congress in 1990, the former naval aviator wore his leather bomber jacket to campaign rallies and referred to his opponent as a "MiG." Cunningham told audiences that the "Maverick" character played by Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" was based on him, claiming credit for the "hit the brakes and he'll fly by" maneuver depicted in the movie and the scene in which Cruise flies upside down over a Soviet fighter. His campaign brochures showed Cruise posing with him on the set, until Cruise's agent objected.When Cunningham arrived in Congress on the eve of the first gulf war, he found that other politicians basked in his glow. Staffers called him "Ace" and "the Dukester," and his colleagues would ask questions like "Duke, why is it so hard to knock out a concrete bunker?" He was booked on the "Today" show and profiled in the Los Angeles Times (which wrote, in 1991, "the 49-year-old Cunningham has approached his...
  • The Debate Over Torture

    Right after 9/11, Cheney said, 'we have to work...the dark side if you will. '
  • Keeping It Real

    For many intellectuals, the ideal of Blind Justice, impartially weighing her scales, went out the window about 80 years ago. At Yale Law School in the 1920s and '30s, a highly influential group of scholars called the Legal Realists argued that the law was not a set of fixed, unchanging rules--"not a brooding omnipresence in the sky," as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it. The Legal Realists contended that, inevitably, judges were influenced by their political views and personal values, whether they admitted it or not. There was a lot of truth to what the Legal Realists were saying. Today it is almost ajournalistic cliche that judges are either liberal or conservative, that the law is nothing but politics in disguise and that judges couldn't be neutral if they tried.Nonetheless, they are supposed to try. And, in fact, most judges do try to set aside or at least check their personal political leanings when ruling on a case. Judging from his life story and judicial record, few...
  • Cheney's Cheney

    The vice president and his chief aide often shared bits of secret information, so perhaps it was unremarkable that on June 12, 2003 (according to the indictment handed up last week), Dick Cheney told Scooter Libby that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the Counterproliferation Division in the CIA's secret Directorate of Operations, also known as the Clandestine Service. Libby had been agitating to find out more about Wilson, an ex-diplomat who had been telling reporters that the administration's main case for going to war in Iraq--that Saddam had WMDs--was bogus.It is a good bet that Cheney and Libby did not think they were conspiring to trash a political foe by ruining his wife's career as an undercover agent. Given their view of themselves and their roles in the world, especially post 9/11, it is much more likely they believed that they were somehow safeguarding the republic. It's also a good bet that they did not foresee the disastrous consequences of their conversation, as well as a...

    This time, President Bush was not going to be caught out of position. He had flown to Colorado to the headquarters of Northern Command, the military nerve center for protecting the continental United States. "Northcom" is just across an air base from Cheyenne Mountain, where cold warriors had once watched for Soviet nuclear-missile attacks. A few hours after Hurricane Rita came ashore on the Texas-Louisiana border at dawn on Saturday, Bush sat in the Northcom Situation Room, looking at large flat screens filled with satellite images of the storm, graphics of troop deployments, and the faces of his commanders, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.The president was hearing mostly good news. The storm, though strong, was not a Category 4 or 5 monster. The vast network of refineries and oil platforms seemed to mostly withstand the 120-mile-an-hour winds and 15-foot storm surge. It would take weeks to get the gulf oil industry fully back online, and fuel prices were sure to go up....

    The Lower Ninth was going under, again. Floodwaters from Hurricane Rita had breached the levee along the Industrial Canal, inundating the poor New Orleans neighborhood that is, or was, home to 40,000 African-Americans. The levee had been patched after it failed in Hurricane Katrina, but not well enough. Cedric Richmond, the president of the Black Caucus in the Louisiana State Legislature, suggested that more than bad luck was at work. "For whatever reason," he told NEWSWEEK, "they didn't put the same effort into fixing the Industrial Canal as they did into the 17th Street Canal." The 17th Street Canal borders a largely white, middle-class area.Richmond did not spell out what he meant by "for whatever reason," but the implication was clear enough. It is simply assumed by many residents of the Lower Ninth that the powers that be of the city of New Orleans would just as soon never rebuild the ward, and that the reasons have as much to do with race and class as they do with geography....
  • How Bush Blew It

    It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the President of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on...
  • Transition: Hail To The Chief

    Rehnquist's wry aside, which broke the tension, was typical of the man affectionately known to his fellow justices as "the Chief." Rehnquist was quick and funny, and he made his job look easy. He had time left over to run betting pools on sporting and political contests, preside over poker games with other Washington luminaries, play bridge and charades, paint, swim, sing hymns, quote poetry and the classics from memory, and write four books on Supreme Court history. He was respected and admired by his colleagues on both sides of the ideological spectrum. The late Thurgood Marshall, who opposed Rehnquist on almost any case, called him a "great chief justice." The Supreme Court is sometimes described as "nine scorpions in a bottle," but under Rehnquist's nearly two decades as chief, the justices generally got along.At the same time, however, he was never able to create "the Rehnquist Court," certainly not the way Earl Warren had shaped a court in his name by putting together...
  • The Lost City

    What Went Wrong: Devastating A Swath Of The South, Katrina Plunged New Orleans Into Agony. The Story Of A Storm--And A Disastrously Slow Rescue.
  • Judging Roberts

    True believers on the left and the right, hoping to rouse their armies for a showdown over John Roberts, immediately trumpeted two "facts" about President George W. Bush's nominee to the United States Supreme Court. Liberal bloggers floated conspiracy theories about the behind-the-scenes role he played on Bush's legal team in the epic court fight after the 2000 election, a contribution that supposedly earned the president's undying gratitude. Right-wingers smugly assumed Roberts's membership in the Federalist Society, an organization that has taken on an almost cultish mystique as both incubator and old boys' network for conservative jurists and lawyers in Washington.Both intriguing items about Roberts, widely reported in the mainstream media, served as fodder for the talk-show blab wars.Problem is, they aren't true. Roberts's role in the case of Bush v. Gore was minimal, according to colleagues who worked with him. Roberts did briefly go to Florida to be on hand as a legal...
  • Terror at Rush Hour

  • Queen of the Center


    In the City of Leaks, it is astonishing that the secret of Deep Throat lasted as long as it did. But now that the word is out, the scramble is on to cash in. Indeed, money is at least one reason that Deep Throat's family revealed his identity, through an article written by the family lawyer, John O'Connor, in Vanity Fair. Mark Felt's daughter Joan, once estranged from Felt (she was living on a commune when he was spying on subversives), is now his caretaker. As the Vanity Fair article made clear, she felt that her father deserved recognition before he died, and, as she put it, she saw a way to pay off some debts for her children's tuition bills. Her original hope was to work with Bob Woodward, The Washington Post reporter who made Deep Throat famous. But Woodward, who was unsure of Felt's mental capacity (Felt had suffered a debilitating stroke) to waive Woodward's promise of confidentiality, would never acknowledge that Felt was, in fact, Deep Throat.So Joan, with O'Connor's help,...
  • A Long Shadow


    LLOYD CUTLER, 87Calm and sage, superlawyer Cutler was for many years a gray eminence in Washington. Two presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, brought Cutler into the White House to help deal with crises and scandals, and drug companies and automakers beat a path to his door. But Cutler also won landmark legal victories for the NAACP and Greenpeace, and he was known as a consensus-maker who could rise above partisanship--a rare breed in the nation's capital these days.

    By the end of the week, the rioting had spread from Afghanistan throughout much of the Muslim world, from Gaza to Indonesia. Mobs shouting "Protect our Holy Book!" burned down government buildings and ransacked the offices of relief organizations in several Afghan provinces. The violence cost at least 15 lives, injured scores of people and sent a shudder through Washington, where officials worried about the stability of moderate regimes in the region.The spark was apparently lit at a press conference held on Friday, May 6, by Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricket legend and strident critic of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Brandishing a copy of that week's NEWSWEEK (dated May 9), Khan read a report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo prison had placed the Qur'an on toilet seats and even flushed one. "This is what the U.S. is doing," exclaimed Khan, "desecrating the Qur'an." His remarks, as well as the outraged comments of Muslim clerics and Pakistani government officials, were...

    George Kennan, 101In February 1946, George Kennan, a young American diplomat in Moscow, was feeling sickly and slightly sorry for himself. Stalin's Russia seemed ever more threatening and paranoid, so Kennan wrote a fevered cable to the State Department, arguing that while Soviet power was "impervious to the logic of reason," it was "highly sensitive to the logic of force." The Long Telegram, as it became known, electrified Washington. "My official loneliness came to an end," Kennan later wrote. "My reputation was made. My voice now carried."Kennan's strategy for dealing with the Soviets--patient, vigilant containment--became American foreign policy until the Soviet Union collapsed four decades later. Kennan was the last of the Wise Men, the Ivy League-educated Wall Streeters and diplomats who created the Western Alliance and rebuilt Europe after World War II. Those men were known for their social confidence; among them, Kennan, a shy Midwesterner, always felt like an outsider. But...

    Henry Grunwald arrived at Time magazine as a part-time copy boy in 1944 at the age of 22. He was a Jewish immigrant with a thick Austrian accent. In that era, Time was staffed by Protestants who had gone to Yale, or at least it seemed that way. Grunwald quickly rose above them; he became, at 28, the youngest senior editor in Time's history. In 1968, he was chosen to be the magazine's managing editor; in 1979 he became editor in chief of all Time Inc. magazines, including People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. Grunwald, who died last week of a heart ailment at the age of 82, succeeded because he was smarter and more gracious than most, but also because he was immensely curious about everything. He cherished old truths and timeless beauty, but he was unafraid of the new.The empire of Henry Luce, the founder of Time Inc., was a difficult place for an outsider or for anyone who questioned the way things were or, in Luce's view, were meant to be. Luce, who died in 1967, was still an...
  • Tide of Grief


    You might think that the home of Benjamin Bradlee, former editor of The Washington Post, and his wife, Sally Quinn, was the last place Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wanted to be last Thursday night. Washington was engaged in one of its periodic head hunts, and the local jungle drums, the news columns and op-ed page of The Washington Post were beating loudly for Rumsfeld's head. Prominent pundits and senators from Rumsfeld's own party had declared on the pages of the Post that it was time for Rummy to go. Bradlee's house is a kind of headquarters of the Washington permanent-media establishment. The reputations of once powerful government servants are buried there, between the dessert course and the toasts.There was some tension this evening between the reporters and their targets, er, subjects. The day before, former CIA director George Tenet had been awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bush. In that morning's Post, columnist Richard Cohen had suggested that Tenet was ...

    Paul Nitze, 97During a lifetime of public service, Ambassador Paul Nitze never held a cabinet-level job. But he did as much as anyone to win the cold war. Nitze was one of a remarkable group of statesmen who went to Washington during World War II and stayed to create the Western Alliance; they forged the doctrine of containment that kept the peace for a half century. Nitze was a tough-minded hawk, but never knee-jerk or inflexible. In 1950 he authored NSC-68, a State Department document that became the blueprint for building up the military to confront the Soviet Union—in order to avoid ever going to war with it. His attempts to find common ground with his Russian opposite during arms-control talks in the 1980s became the inspiration for a Broadway play, "A Walk in the Woods." Typically, Nitze dismissed the dramatization, which glorified him, as "nonsense."He was probably too prickly to ever become secretary of State or Defense, but a half-dozen presidents from FDR to Reagan relied...