Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • 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...
  • RITA'S LESSONS

    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 BATTLE TO REBUILD

    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

    ON THE TRAIL: A MASSIVE WORLDWIDE HUNT BEGINS TO CATCH THE LONDON KILLERS.
  • Queen of the Center

    THE SWING VOTE: SHE'S A COWGIRL FROM SAGEBRUSH COUNTRY, A PIONEER WHO DEFIED THE ODDS. THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF A MODERATE JUSTICE.
  • SHOPPING A BIG SECRET

    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

    UNDERSTANDING DEEP THROAT: WHY A SOURCE TOOK ON A PRESIDENT THEN, AND HOW NIXON'S FALL SHAPES US EVEN NOW.
  • TRANSITION

    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.
  • HOW A FIRE BROKE OUT

    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...
  • TRANSITION

    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...
  • A MAN OF SUBSTANCE

    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

    THE EARTH SHRUGGED, AND MORE THAN 140,000 DIED. A STORY OF UNIMAGINABLE TRAGEDY AND HEROISM
  • CAREERS: WHY IS HE STILL SMILING?

    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 ...
  • TRANSITION

    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...
  • THE ROAD TO RESOLVE

    A SOBER VIEW: O HE PARTIED HARD, THEN DRIED OUT AND FOUND A FIERCE DETERMINATION. HOW GEORGE BUSH WAS SAVED--AND NEVER LOOKED BACK.
  • CHENEY FAMILY VALUES

    Around Bush-Cheney headquarters, they are known, respectfully but also with a certain amount of eye-rolling, as The Family. Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, and daughters Liz and Mary can be intense, insular and prickly as they protect their man, his reputation and his place on the GOP ticket. For White House and campaign staffers, the Cheney family can be dangerous to cross and easy to disappoint. Since taking office, Cheney is on his fourth press secretary, and all of them have appeared to be afraid of even trying to pass on tough or annoying questions from reporters. Prospective Cheney staffers are expected to be "part of The Family." The connotation is not quite the Sopranos, but it's not about baking cookies, either.The Family has been feeling a little besieged lately. Last week The New York Times ran a front-page story relating a plan--characterized by the paper as "ingenious as it is far-fetched" to dump Cheney under the guise of bringing on a new doctor who would...
  • As the Shadows Fell

    The story of Ronald Reagan's last decade is at once grim and tender. The personal history of how Nancy coped with his Alzheimer's.
  • TRANSITION

    WILLIAM MANCHESTER, 82 ...
  • INTELLIGENCE: WITH SPIES LIKE THESE...

    Three blocks from the White House, tucked away in an odd little brick building, is a small (50-member) men's club known as the Alibi. It was once a haven for spy masters. Allen Dulles, the longest-serving CIA director (known as the "Great White Case Officer"), drank martinis there with Kennedy and Eisenhower administration officials. It was at the Alibi that Richard Bissell, the CIA's swashbuckling chief of operations, announced in January 1961, at the depths of the cold war, "I'm your basic man-eating shark."Today, the Alibi's membership still includes a few old spooks, including the president's father, George H. W. Bush (who served as CIA director in 1976 and 1977). But some old hands complain that the club has been taken over by lawyers and lobbyists. George Tenet, the second longest-serving CIA director, who announced last week that he will step down, is not a member of the Alibi. The CIA has grown grayer, blander. Most of the modern "intelcrats" (intelligence bureaucrats) who...
  • No Good Defense

    He Leaned Forward, Changing The Way America Fights Wars And Shaking Up A Staid Bureaucracy. But His Culture Of Intimidation Alienated The Brass--And Helped Pave The Road To Abu Ghraib. Donald Rumsfeld's Journey To The Brink
  • Explaining Lynndie England

    What made Lynndie England, patriotic, pixie-ish tomboy who joined the army reserve to pay for college, become the poster girl for sexual humiliation and degradation at Abu Ghraib? Her sister, Jessica, describes England as "very kind-hearted, dependable, strong-minded and idealistic." And yet the photos show her calmly holding a cringing naked man on a leash.Typically in a plane crash, not one thing, but several things go wrong all at once. In Abu Ghraib, the source of degradation seems to be an "all of the above" answer to a sick multiple choice exam. The causes appear to be at once banal and evil, specific to the individual and as broad based as all of society. Everyone and no one was to blame. Why did England sink so low?The higher chain of command. That's England's explanation. She told a Denver TV station that she had been ordered to perform such sordid acts as pointing for the camera at a detainee's genitals while signaling thumbs-up. England sometimes felt "kind of weird," she...
  • 'I HAVEN'T SUFFERED DOUBT'

    It was Monday, Jan. 13, 2003, and President George W. Bush had just told his secretary of State, Colin Powell, that he was going to war in Iraq. "You know you're going to be owning this place?" inquired Powell. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's new book, "Plan of Attack," Powell "wasn't sure whether Bush had fully understood the meaning and consequences of total ownership." No matter. Bush said something to the effect of "I think I have to do this," and Powell, in essence, saluted and carried on. The whole conversation took 12 minutes.That's what passed for debate in the Bush war cabinet, at least as the White House is depicted by Woodward. Early press accounts about Woodward's latest behind-the-scenes narrative suggested that Bush kept even his closest advisers in the dark about his decision to go to war because he was afraid of leaks. The real news, however, is not that Bush was secretive about his war planning, but rather that there was so little consideration...
  • KERRY AND AGENT ORANGE

    The swift boats, like the one John Kerry captained, were sitting ducks. Hiding in the dense jungle along the riverbanks of the Mekong Delta, the Viet Cong could open up on the Americans with machine guns, mortars and rockets--and vanish before the Americans could effectively shoot back. So the U.S. military adjusted, dropping tons of herbicide on the foliage to strip the enemy of its cover. "They just told us they sprayed something to kill the bushes," recalls Mike Medeiros, who served with Kerry aboard PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) 94 in the winter of 1969. "It looked like a moonscape... You saw skeletal remains of trees everywhere. It was like, whatever they're using is some serious stuff."Some of Kerry's men, contacted last week by NEWSWEEK, don't recall being directly sprayed, or saw planes or choppers dropping the herbicides in the distance. Other Swift Boat crews patrolling near Kerry's boat say they were doused. But everyone, including Kerry, realizes today that they fought in a...
  • War Stories

    PAST AS PROLOGUE: IRAQ FILLS THE HEADLINES, BUT FOR PRESIDENT BUSH AND SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, VIETNAM MAY BE THE CRUCIBLE THAT MATTERS MORE. HOW TWO SONS OF PRIVILEGE CONFRONTED THE CONFLICT--AND THE WAYS THOSE CHOICES HAVE COLORED THEIR DIVERGENT PATHS
  • A VITAL MERGER

    The question seemed perfectly innocuous. A student at a small gathering of college Democrats in Lacey, Wash., asked Teresa Heinz Kerry why her husband had waited so long in the Senate (almost two decades) before deciding to run for president. The candidate's wife suddenly recalled something her mother had told her: that the Devil was powerful not because "he's so smart--he's so smart because he's so old."John Kerry as the Devil? For a moment, it looked like the sort of unfortunate, oddball blurt that makes campaign handlers cringe. Kerry's staff has long been uneasy about Teresa Heinz, a demanding, somewhat unpredictable 65-year-old demi-billionaire. But no one in the audience seemed to mind or even notice a sinister juxtaposition. The crowd laughed with her. Perhaps it was the context, an entertaining monologue about her roots in colonial Africa, delivered in her trademark, slightly sexy, vaguely exotic accent. Or perhaps it was just a friendly crowd, Democratic activists who want...