Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • A PROBLEM IN THE BUNKER

    Is Dick Cheney a drag on the ticket? As President Bush's rating dips below 50 percent, some prominent Republicans are beginning nervously to wonder. "The chatter on Cheney has increased in the last two weeks," says Republican strategist Scott Reed. "Cheney has moved into the Bush world; you either love him or hate him." The charge that the Bush administration hyped the WMD threat from Iraq has thrust the vice president into the spotlight, a place he generally prefers not to be.There was a time when Cheney's presence in the White House was regarded as reassuring. With his thin record on foreign affairs and national security, George W. Bush seemed a little callow when he took office. Cheney, the former White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford and Defense secretary under the first President Bush, was a gruff, taciturn old hand who looked as if he were comfortable sleeping in a bomb shelter. But as Cheney disappeared into his "undisclosed location" after 9/11, surfacing only...
  • 'I'M A GOOD CLOSER'

    In the 1996 U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, the wise guys in the Boston media and political establishment toasted Gov. William Weld and made fun of incumbent Sen. John Kerry. Kerry was mocked as a phony and a publicity hound--dubbed "Live Shot" by Billy Bulger, the Massachusetts state Senate president. Weld, on the other hand, was seen as clever and cool, the witty star of Bulger's annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast. If you had to guess which of the two candidates would do better on "Imus in the Morning," the irreverent talk show that has a large New England audience, you wouldn't have guessed John Kerry.You would have guessed wrong. Appearing on "Imus," Weld, who can be a little lazy, was unprepared and flat. "He didn't recognize my enormous influence," recalls Don Imus. Kerry came ready with jokes and riffs, but more important, he was not rattled by the razzing of the mercurial Imus. ("You can ask him questions like 'Is your wife too nutty to be First Lady?' " says Imus.) The...
  • WHY BUSH IS OVER THE MOON

    Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, is known for hamming it up, whistling, humming and occasionally breaking into song. But he seemed especially jolly last week at a dinner, held at a PGA golf-and-spa resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for about 40 Republican heavy hitters. The mood of the GOP fat cats, so-called Rangers and Pioneers who have raised more than $200,000 and $100,000, respectively, for the president's re-election bid, had improved greatly since a similar gathering last fall, when worries over the economy and the war in Iraq had made them querulous with Rove. Now, with the stock market climbing and Saddam in jail, the contributors mostly tossed softballs to the president's top politico. Was Howard Dean, one questioner wanted to know, the best (i.e., weakest) Democrat for Bush to face in November? Rove indulged in some casual titillation. If voters were surprised by some of Dean's over-the-top comments, they should hold on to their hats,...
  • Operation Hearts And Minds

    Like all American soldiers in Iraq, the men and women of the Third Squad, First Platoon, B Company, 1/124 Infantry of the Florida National Guard were elated over the capture of Saddam Hussein. "It felt like complete victory," wrote one squaddie, Sgt. Richard Schevis, to his friends and family back home. "It felt like a connection with our grandfathers arriving in Berlin after fighting the Germans and finally the Reich falling." Schevis and his mates were especially happy when the city of Ar Ramadi, a Baathist stronghold, erupted in what sounded like celebratory gunfire.But then Schevis learned that the Iraqis were not firing their AK-47s skyward to celebrate Saddam's seizure. Rather, the men of Ar Ramadi had gone mad with joy over a report, aired on the Arabic television station Al-Jazeera, that the Americans had seized the wrong man, that Saddam was still free. Schevis felt crestfallen. "I was devastated and filled with rage towards the Iraqis," he wrote home.Other American GIs...
  • How We Got Saddam

    'Don't Shoot,' The Bearded, Submissive Man Said To The Soldiers. He Was Saddam Hussein, Hiding In A Hole, The Man The Pentagon Called 'High Value Target Number One.' The Story Of His Capture--And What's Next
  • Spy Games Uncloaked

    In the movie "Master and Commander," Jack Aubrey manages to find the single enemy ship for which he's searching the vast Pacific. During the real age of fighting sail, commanders were not so lucky. Lord Nelson, the cleverest of all British admirals, was driven into a "frenzy" trying to find Napoleon's fleet--some 300 ships--in the Mediterranean in 1798. (After 79 days he did, and destroyed them.) Nelson railed against fortune, unable to eat or sleep as he cast about for some piece of intelligence that would reveal the enemy.All commanders long for that secret key to victory--the broken code, the well-placed spy, the brilliant deception. They rarely find it, writes John Keegan in his new book, "Intelligence in War," and when they do, they still have to fight. In a series of bracing, meticulous case studies, including the Battle of Midway and Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, Keegan, our greatest modern military historian, argues that "ultimately, it is force, not fraud or...
  • Rumsfeld Bares His Fangs

    Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is known for his brusqueness with the press. But for Rumsfeld to be snippy with reporters about national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice was, to say the least, unusual and noteworthy. Pundits and their unnamed sources may speculate about rivalries or bad blood between members of President George W. Bush's war cabinet, but the principals themselves--Rumsfeld and Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell--have for the most part been very careful not to speak ill of each other to reporters, or even hint at any personal differences.That is the way President Bush, who values loyalty and dislikes the Washington game, wants it to be. But last week Rumsfeld let his mask slip for a moment and bared his teeth at a colleague. It was one of those moments of Washington theater that, while stylized and partly in code, spoke volumes about longstanding rifts in Bush's foreign-policy team. That these divisions are now surfacing publicly...
  • "I Am Addicted To Prescription Pain Medication"

    True Confessions: Limbaugh Built An Army Of Admirers With His Hard-Right Rants. But Off-Air, He Was A Lonely Man Who May Have Broken The Law To Feed His Addiction. The Real Rush.
  • Politics: The Water Walker

    Gen. Wesley Clark likes to say that he loved all 34 of his years in the U.S. Army except for two days: the day he was shot (four times) in Vietnam and the day he was fired as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, effectively ending his military career. Both times he was caught by surprise. On patrol in Vietnam, he dropped his rifle (how odd, he thought for an instant; he had never dropped his rifle before) and looked down to see white bone sticking out of his hand where the bullet had struck. The second wound was worse--a stab in the back. As commander of NATO forces, Clark had used an escalating 10-week bombing campaign to force Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to abandon his campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. General Clark had expected to be hailed by his bosses in Washington as a conquering hero--or at least thanked for winning a war at the cost of zero U.S. casualties. Instead, he was dumped for being too independent-minded.Shocked, humiliated, Clark called Richard...
  • Cold War: Bluster Before The Fall

    Know thine enemy is an old rule of war and geopolitics, but one that often cannot be obeyed, especially if the enemy is a totalitarian state and hard to spy on. Throughout the cold war, American policymakers often had to guess at the intentions of the Kremlin, and they often guessed wrong. It was only after the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s that Washington realized that the "evil empire" had long been rotting from within.The Soviets' weaknesses are vividly demonstrated in a trove of documents that will be released this week by the Russian government: the deliberations of the Politburo from 1954 to 1964. They show Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and his comrades worrying about planes that won't fly and bread lines that won't go away. At the same time, the Soviets are willing to take hair-raising risks. Khrushchev talks about shooting down American planes over Berlin in 1961 and asserts that the United States would "capitulate," a dangerous assumption that could have...
  • Groping In The Dark

    Iraq may be spinning out of control, but in the Bush administration, the spin was strictly controlled. From Baghdad to the White House, administration spokesmen went to elaborate lengths to argue that the presence of terrorists in Iraq was somehow a positive development. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, adopted a tone of "we've got 'em right where we want 'em." Bremer said: "Better to fight it here than to fight it somewhere else, like the United States." At a White House briefing, a senior administration official echoed, "I would rather fight them in Baghdad than in New York." If Al Qaeda has popped up in Baghdad, the Bushies defiantly proclaimed, it only goes to show that the administration was right all along to label Iraq as a terrorist haven. "Those who said there was no link between Iraq and the war on terror were dead wrong," said the White House official. (Writing in The New York Times, Harvard lecturer and former Clinton national-security official Jessica...
  • Condi In The Hot Seat

    First to take the fall was CIA Director George Tenet. He apologized for not stopping President Bush from declaring, in the State of the Union, that the Iraqis were trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Africa, a claim based on thin or fraudulent intelligence. Then last week it was deputy national- security adviser Steve Hadley's turn to fall on his sword. A shaken Hadley confessed to reporters that the CIA had, in fact, warned the White House in October to be wary of British intelligence reports about the Iraqis and African uranium--but that he had forgotten all about it when it came time to draft the president's State of the Union Message in January.Amid the high-level mea culpas, one voice was significantly missing. National-security adviser Condoleezza Rice has been defiant, and more than a little defensive, in her insistence that the flap about hyped-up intelligence was "overblown." She may have a point: proof could still turn up that Saddam Hussein harbored a secret WMD program....
  • See how They Ran

    THEY HOARDED MONEY. AND THEY HUDDLED IN FEAR. INSIDE THE FLIGHT PATH OF SADDAM'S SONS. THE RAID THAT GROUNDED THEM--AND THE HUNT FOR THE ACE OF SPADES
  • Center Court

    Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got her job through affirmative action. It was obvious to officials in the Reagan Justice Department, as they searched for a Supreme Court justice in the summer of 1981, that she lacked the usual qualifications for the high court. "No way," Emma Jordan, an assistant to the then Attorney General William French Smith, recalls thinking. "There were gaps in her background where she had clearly been at home having babies. She had never had a national position. Under awards, she had something like Phoenix Ad Woman of the Year." No matter. President Reagan wanted to appoint the first woman justice, so he named O'Connor.Last week O'Connor in a sense returned the favor by playing the critical role in the most important affirmative-action case in decades. She cast the fifth and deciding vote and wrote the court's opinion in upholding the right of the University of Michigan Law School to use race as a factor in admissions. As a practical matter, her ruling in...
  • The War Over Gay Marriage

    In A Landmark Decision, The Supreme Court Affirms Gay Privacy And Opens The Way To A Revolution In Family Life
  • Al Qaeda In America: The Enemy Within

    Khalid Shaikh Mohammed looked more like a loser in a T shirt than a modern-day Mephistopheles. But "KSM," as he is always referred to in FBI documents, held the key to unlock the biggest mystery of the war on terror: is Al Qaeda operating inside America?The answer, according to KSM's confessions and the intense U.S. investigation that followed, is yes. It is not known where the authorities took KSM after he was captured, looking paunchy and pouty, in a 3 a.m. raid in Pakistan on March 1. As Al Qaeda's director of global operations, KSM was by far the most valuable prize yet captured by American intelligence and its various allies in the post-9-11 manhunt. He probably now resides in an exceedingly spartan jail cell in some friendly Arab country, perhaps Jordan.He has probably not been tortured, at least in the traditional sense. Interrogation methods, usually involving sleep deprivation, have become much more refined. He probably did not tell all he knew. Qaeda chieftains are...
  • The New Man To See

    The vice president's chief of staff and national-security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, wants to be anonymous, but his personality sometimes gets the better of him. A slight figure, taciturn like his boss, Libby rarely speaks to reporters. But in April at a White House Correspondents Dinner after-party, he challenged various well-known journalists to drink tequila shots. Most of the reporters got drunk; Libby did not. "Typical Libby," says Rep. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio. "He was probably doing every other one."Libby is the most powerful Washington figure most people never heard of. "He is viewed as an adviser to the president, not as staff. That is very unusual," says Portman, a friend of Libby's. As Congress begins to investigate whether the Bush administration hyped the WMD threat in Iraq, Libby's role is likely to come under scrutiny. Libby, like his boss, is known as a probing questioner of intelligence analysts. The question is whether he was too aggressive.Libby is...
  • The Secret War

    It's Been The Best-Covered War In History. But The Key To Success Was What We Didn't See: Special Forces, Psyop, The Air War--And The Utterly Inept Iraqi Army
  • A Plan Under Attack

    Did We Start The War With Enough Force? As The Blame Game Begins, The Fight In Iraq Is About To Get A Lot Bloodier. The Long And Dangerous Road To Baghdad--And Beyond
  • The War Room

    It Was A Bold Move: Speed The Battle Plan With A Risky Strike. But Team Bush Had A Man On The Inside. Behind The 'Target Of Opportunity,' And What It Means For The Road To Baghdad.
  • The 12 Year Itch

    Dick Cheney likes to read history, especially military history. He disappears into his well-stocked library at the vice president's mansion for hours at a time, reading about Churchill and World War II or other war leaders in other crises down through the ages. Last fall, the vice president read "An Autumn of War" by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist who lives on a farm in California. In his book, a collection of columns published online by National Review in the weeks after 9-11, Hanson writes that war is the natural state of mankind. Great leaders understand this, according to Hanson. They are not fooled by utopian visions about world peace; they face evil and deal with it. Cheney told his aides that Hanson's book reflected his philosophy.Before Christmas, Hanson was invited to dine with Cheney and talk to his aides, who also read his book. Cheney was his usual taciturn self, says Hanson, but his questions seemed to indicate that he was interested in statesmen who became warriors,...
  • A Man Of Laughter And Grace

    Insecurity is the natural state of journalists. Insecurity makes us edgy, curious and competitive; also, nosy and pushy. Newsrooms are hotbeds of neurosis and jealousy. Reporters often do their best reporting on the personal lives of their colleagues.In our world, Kenneth Auchincloss, NEWSWEEK's editor-at-large, who died last week at 65, should have been a misfit. He respected privacy. He loved a good story and he could be wickedly funny, but he was not very interested in the latest gossip about who was up or who was down. Working at a magazine that aims to be hip and ahead of the curve, he was a little clueless about pop stars and sometimes happily behind the times. Once, when NEWSWEEK was debating whether to do a story on Mick and Jerry, he asked, "Who are Mick and Jerry?" For an American raised in Manhattan, he was a bit of an aristocratic toff. He had gone to Groton, Harvard and Oxford, wore English tweeds and collected rare books. He wrote as easily as he breathed. He should...
  • Saddam's War

    His Survival Strategy Is Probably Hopeless. But He Has Every Reason To Believe He Can Sway World Opinion. And If That Fails, He Can Turn A Surgical U.S. Invasion Into A Bloody Nightmare
  • Out Of The Blue

    On A Picture-Perfect Texas Morning, The Shuttle Columbia Was Heading Home When Tragedy Struck, Leaving The Country And The World Wondering What Went Wrong-And Honoring The Lives Of Seven Brave Astronauts
  • Women, Wine And Weapons

    One of the tougher reviews for the new James Bond movie, "Die Another Day," came from an official-sounding organization, located in Pyongyang, North Korea, called the "Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland." The film, the villain of which is a North Korean arms dealer who develops a doomsday weapon to annihilate the West, is a "dirty and cursed burlesque aimed to slander and insult the Korean nation," railed the Secretariat. It is "a premeditated act of mocking" that proves the United States is "the headquarters that spreads abnormality, degeneration, violence and fin de siecle corrupt sex culture." Since not much emanates from North Korea without the say-so of Kim Jong Il, the pudgy, oddball strongman of Pyongyang, it's a good bet that the Secretariat was expressing the views, if not the actual words, of the "Great Leader," as Kim is known to his people.Kim Jong Il is a movie fan. He once said that if he hadn't become his country's ruler, he...
  • Bulking Up For Baghdad

    About halfway through operation Internal Look--the military's just-completed practice run for a real war in Iraq--Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall combatant commander, held a banquet for his senior officers. Some 50 flag-rank officers, generals and admirals gathered at Central Command headquarters in Qatar. Franks was supposed to preside at the head table with the other top brass, but instead he sat over at a small table in the corner, chatting with his top sergeant. An aide approached Franks and asked, a little uncertainly, "Don't you want to sit at the head table?" "Nope," said Franks. "I want to talk to the sergeant major." While the generals wined and dined, Franks went back to amiably jawing with a senior enlisted man.In the sweep of his command, General Franks is the modern equivalent of a proconsul in the Roman Empire. As the head of Centcom, he is responsible for U.S. military operations in 25 countries from Egypt to Central Asia, and he will direct any invasion of Iraq. But...
  • Race To The Exit

    The White House strategy, stealthy and swift, went off without a hitch. On Friday morning, Dec. 20, President Bush was in the White House situation room for a briefing on Iraq when policy adviser Josh Bolten entered with the news: Trent Lott, the embattled Senate majority leader, had stepped down. After a futile two-week struggle to hang on to his job, Lott made the decision to call it quits on Thursday night, after he began receiving call after call from influential Senate Republicans telling him they no longer supported him. One by one, they lined up behind Sen. Bill Frist, the rising star of the Senate and a good friend of President Bush, who had let it be known that he wanted to replace Lott as majority leader. For the record, Bush claimed it was fine with him if Lott kept his position, but no one really believed that Bush meant it, or that Lott could survive for long. Until Friday it seemed that Lott was the only one in the country who hadn't gotten the message that it was time...
  • The Quiet Power Of Condi Rice

    Born In 'Bombingham,' The Enigmatic Adviser Has Become The 'Warrior Princess'--Bush's Secret White House Weapon
  • In The War Room

    In the war in Afghanistan last fall, the United States bought off more enemy fighters than it killed. In one case, the CIA offered $50,000 to a Taliban warlord to defect. When the commander asked for time to think about it, a Special Forces A Team laser-guided a JDAM precision bomb to explode next door to his headquarters. The next day the CIA man called the commander back with a new offer. How about $40,000? This time the commander said yes.Bob Woodward's latest book, which is being excerpted in The Washington Post and was shared exclusively with NEWSWEEK, is full of such juicy tidbits from the secret war in Afghanistan. "Bush at War" is, in part, a stirring tale of how an on-the-ground force of fewer than 500 men (110 CIA case officers and 316 Special Forces personnel) exploited high tech, guile and greed to take down the Taliban and liberate Afghanistan from the grip of Al Qaeda. Less heroic, though human and convincing in its telling detail, is Woodward's insiders' account of...
  • Transition

    RICHARD HELMS, 89 Helms was "the man who kept the secrets," as his biographer Thomas Powers memorably called the former CIA director (1966-73). Urbane, handsome and shrewd, Helms was a great favorite of the old boys at the CIA, in part because of his tight-lipped professionalism and because he almost became a martyr. Charged in 1977 with lying to Congress about CIA covert operations, Helms pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and got off with a $2,000 fine, which former CIA officers paid off by passing the hat. Helms called his conviction "a badge of honor." He may finally tell some of his secrets posthumously. His memoirs, "A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the CIA," come out next spring.-Evan ThomasADOLPH GREEN, 87 Half of one of Broadway's most successful writing teams, Green and his partner, Betty Comden, wrote the words for hit musicals like "On the Town" and "Bells Are Ringing," as well as the screenplays for such Hollywood classics as "The Band Wagon" and "Singin' in the...
  • Mrs. G's Washington

    Katharine Graham's "Personal History" was a Pulitzer Prize-winning, No. 1 best seller in part because it was disarmingly honest. The legendary matriarch of The Washington Post Company (which owns NEWSWEEK) turned out to be a most unstuffy grande dame, by turns vulnerable, tough and funny. Before she died last year at the age of 84, Mrs. Graham put together a collection of more than 100 articles, essays and book excerpts about her hometown, Washington. Her fascination with the human side of the capital shines through, especially in her own comments and introductory essays. "I was always terrified of Jack Kennedy... I remember one day going to the White House for dinner and, as always, I felt terribly awkward and was sure that I was boring him--which was, of course, the first way to bore him," writes Graham, who knew or met through her parents an astonishing 17 presidents. She may have thought she was a bore in 1962, but she got over it. Her attitude toward Washington is revealed by...
  • Shadow Struggle

    Who to believe?On the one hand are the prophets of doom: the senior administration officials who have come forward, one after the other, to describe, in no uncertain terms, the threat posed by Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld swears that the Bush administration has "bulletproof" evidence that Saddam is working with Al Qaeda, while national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney declare that the Iraqis, with a little luck, could obtain nuclear weapons in a matter of months. On the other hand are the purveyors of doubt: the various unnamed intelligence officials who consistently undermine these dire predictions, telling reporters that the evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam is shaky at best, or that it will be many years before Saddam can build or buy his own bomb. Could Saddam attack America with smallpox? Absolutely, say administration spokesmen like Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge. Not likely, scoff the anonymous...