Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • Behind The Smile

    Gary Condit learned how to project an image of purity and innocence at a very young age. As a little boy he would stand atop a tree stump at his father's tent revival meetings and sing, in a clear, sweet voice, "Amazing Grace." Then his father, Adrian, a Baptist minister, would step up and deliver a fire-and-brimstone sermon about hell and damnation. In a conversation with a NEWSWEEK reporter, the Rev. Frank (Chinker) Leach, 66, the preacher at the Free Full Gospel Church of Salina, Okla., recalled seeing the father and son perform the ancient drama of sin and redemption. The Reverend Leach reflected a moment on Gary Condit's current predicament and added, "Beware, your sins will find you out."Condit is hardly the first preacher's son to fall from grace, and his sins may not go beyond the commonplace ones of bearing false witness and adultery. Like most of the people who have known Condit, the Reverend Leach refuses to believe that the congressman had anything to do with Chandra...
  • Remembering Katharine Graham

    Katharine Graham, who died today at 84, was, for many years, arguably the most powerful woman in America. She was the first woman to be a true media mogul, running The Washington Post Company (which owns NEWSWEEK) for more than three decades. For several generations of public officials and journalists, she embodied the Washington establishment.SHE FIRST GAINED true fame during the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s, when the Post's reporting helped bring down President Nixon. In 1998, her memoir, "Personal History," was a No. 1 best seller and won the Pulitzer Prize. Born to wealth, she grew much richer. The powerful, including presidents and heads of state, sought her company, approval and advice. She was the guest of honor for the most celebrated society event in history, the 1966 Black and White Ball thrown by Truman Capote. She was endlessly honored and feted, and she will be eulogized as a giant figure, a kind of American royalty.Yet what made her interesting-and truly great...
  • Founders Chic: Live From Philadelphia

    Good thing the founders didn't rely on pollsters. At the time of the Revolution, the American colonists, John Adams recalled, were "about one third Tories"--loyal to the British crown--"and [one] third timid, and one third true blue." Adams was true blue. "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I am with my country from this day on," he told a friend in 1774. "You may depend on it."By the summer of '76, as Adams cajoled his fellow delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to declare independence from Great Britain, perishing was a distinct possibility. On the night of July 2, as the delegates were casting their first votes, word reached Philadelphia that a hundred British warships and troop transports had been sighted off New York.The empire was striking back. The colonists had driven British forces from Boston in March, but now a vast armada--some 400 ships, packed with regiments of crack British redcoats and highly trained Hessian mercenaries--was...
  • Battle For Bush's Soul

    If Karl Rove has his way, the GOP--the Grand Old Party--will become the POG--the Party of God. Since the early '70s, the actively religious have been migrating to the Republicans. In the 2000 election, two of three voters who regularly attended church voted for George W. Bush, while two of three voters who never attended church voted for Al Gore. Bush won overwhelmingly among Protestant evangelicals and even carried 47 percent of the traditionally Democratic Catholic vote. Rove, the president's chief political strategist, is after the other 53 percent, millions of voters who could "realign" the political parties to make the Republicans dominant for years to come--or at least in 2004.Pure politics helps explain why the White House has long been expected to ban federal funding for research on stem cells extracted from human embryos. The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has vigorously opposed the procedure as a violation of the sanctity of life. At Rove's urging, President Bush has been...
  • Confessions From A Crash

    Gone are the double-breasted suits and the copy of the Renaissance painting on the wall. Gone, too, is most of the $10 billion fortune, as well as roughly half of the 2,400 staffers he once employed. Michael Saylor, the CEO of the Vienna, Va.-based MicroStrategy, took one of the most spectacular dives in the dot-com crash. He is still worth about $100 million on paper, but reporters rarely come around these days seeking his vision of the future, and he notes, a little sullenly, that on the charity-ball circuit he has been dumped from the A list "to the B or C list." Last week he sat down with NEWSWEEK to recount, for the first time, what he calls his "near-death experience." He wanted to come clean, to tell a cautionary tale for the age, but he may have revealed more about his pride than his fall.Saylor was having "the best week of my life," he says, when the ominous phone call came. It was mid-March 2000; the Nasdaq was peaking, and Saylor was in Houston, pitching investors on a $2...
  • See George. See George Learn Foreign Policy

    It was a private tutorial for the president, in the living room of the White House residence. Condoleezza Rice, the president's national-security adviser and chief tutor on foreign policy, had already trooped a procession of heads of state and foreign ministers through the Oval Office to contribute to the education of George W. Bush. Now, on May 31, she assembled a coterie of foreign-policy experts drawn from outside the administration, including her handpicked Russian expert, Michael McFaul of the Hoover Institution; Democratic investment banker Felix Rohatyn, who served as Bill Clinton's ambassador to France; British author and Europeanist Timothy Garton Ash, and journalist Lionel Barber, a European specialist at the Financial Times. The visitors were sworn to secrecy, in part to avoid the impression that Bush needed remedial training, but several participants described the meeting to NEWSWEEK.Over soft drinks, his visitors warned the president that the allies were complaining...
  • A James Bond Wanna-Be?

    The handshake is vicelike, the stare hard. He owns a Walther PPK pistol--the 1960s James Bond's handgun of choice--and practices martial arts. He smokes pre-Castro Cuban cigars and once, while scuba diving with some macho buddies, he says he punched a great white shark in the jaw, just to show that he could. A. B. (Buzzy) Krongard, the new executive director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is by all appearances a throwback to an earlier age, when spymasters were often Ivy Leaguers with a sense of elan and a streak of boldness--sometimes too much of it. ...
  • The Real Day Of Infamy

    James Wire, ship fitter third class, couldn't imagine that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor. Reflecting the racial views all too typical of his time, he regarded the Japanese as incapable of such a bold affront. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Wire had come on deck of his ship, the Tennessee, to get some sun. The eight battleships of the Pacific Fleet were preparing for morn-ing colors and church. Canvas awnings stretched across decks to provide shade. A band was playing the "Star Spangled Banner." Most of the ships' antiaircraft guns were unmanned. Coming out of the hatch, Wire noticed a plane dropping something. A sandbag? he wondered. American pilots sometimes dropped sandbags as they practiced bombing runs on nearby Ford Island. But then, on the wing of the plane, he saw a red "meatball"--the rising sun of the Japanese Empire. The plane was now only 50 feet away. "I could have hit him with a rock," Wire recalled to NEWSWEEK. ...
  • First Brush With History

    It was week one of President George W. Bush's first foreign-policy crisis. The cable-TV news networks were blaring on about "the showdown with China." Talking heads were asking when the 24 American crew members "detained" on Hainan Island were going to be called hostages. The president, meanwhile, was out on the South Lawn, pacing off 60 feet, 6 inches, the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate. Bush was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Milwaukee Brewers' home opener, and he didn't want to put one into the dirt, the way his father, former president George Bush, had done once on opening day at a Houston Astros game. Bush was practicing throwing with a bulky bulletproof vest. At one point, he pretended to keel over backward from the weight of the jacket. ...
  • Coming To Terms With A Tragedy

    Sen. Bob Kerrey, Vietnam War hero, Medal of Honor winner, often came across as a brooding figure. His friends attributed Kerrey's melancholy streak to his long suffering in a veterans' hospital after part of his leg was blown off by a Viet Cong grenade in 1969. But it turns out that Kerrey was dwelling as well on a darker story. He was haunted by the night of Feb. 25, 1969, when he and his squad of six Navy commandos, on a mission to ambush a Viet Cong chieftain, killed about a score of unarmed civilians, most of them women and children, in the South Vietnamese hamlet of Thanh Phong. From time to time, and with increasing urgency as the years passed, Kerrey contemplated going public with the story. But, he told NEWSWEEK last week, "I was never able to muster the courage to do it." ...
  • A Captain's Story

    For many years, Naval Academy graduates who wanted to sail in submarines had to endure an interview with Adm. Hyman Rickover, the arbitrary, irascible father of the nuclear Navy. Rickover liked to torment his would-be charges with trick questions. Demanding total devotion to the job, Rickover once told an applicant to phone his fiancee, right there, and call off the wedding. When the man gulped and picked up the phone, Rickover snarled that he would never take a "spineless a--hole" into his program and terminated the interview. Yet if Scott Waddle, Annapolis class of '81, was intimidated when he entered the admiral's austere office for his turn, he didn't show it. After a few questions about chemistry, Rickover noted that as a cheerleader for the Academy football team, Midshipman Waddle should do something to demonstrate his enthusiasm for the submarine service. Waddle jumped up and, at full volume, began to perform an acrobatic cheer. Admiring Waddle's panache, Rickover signed him...
  • Desperate Hours

    Deborah Courtney wanted to sail on a warship after she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1990. It took a while: Courtney had to bide her time as an admiral's aide until the rules barring women from combat duty were changed in 1994. Finally given the duty she longed for, she was steadily promoted and became the chief engineering officer aboard the USS Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Her baptism by fire began when she was blown out of her chair in her stateroom by a terrorist bomb on the morning of Oct. 12, 2000, as the ship refueled in the port of Aden, Yemen. ...
  • Prayers To Save A Spy's Soul

    Bonnie Wauck married alleged Soviet spy Bob Hanssen more than three decades ago, said her sister Liz Rahimi, because "he treated her like a queen." The parents of six children, Bob and Bonnie "were the picture of a perfect family. He was always devoted to them--completely. He was never gone." So on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 18, Bonnie Hanssen was naturally worried when her husband failed to return from Dulles Airport, where, he had told her, he had gone to drop off a friend. Bonnie, a devout Roman Catholic, was so worried that she called another of her sisters and her mother, Fran, and asked them to begin praying for Bob. Meanwhile she drove out to Dulles and paged him. Her car was quickly surrounded by FBI agents. She was told that her husband, a 25-year veteran of the bureau, had been arrested for espionage. Along with two of her children, she was interrogated in a hotel room until 4 a.m. ...
  • Washington's Quiet Club

    "We are here to keep Catholics from living double lives," says Father C. John McCloskey, an Opus Dei priest. In the case of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent accused of spying for the Russians, Opus Dei apparently failed spectacularly. ...
  • A Spy's Secret World

    Exclusive: To His Neighbors, Robert Hanssen Was A Devout Dad. To His Fbi Colleagues, He Could Be Controlling And Moralistic. To The Russians, He Was 'B' And 'Ramon'--A Long-Term Mole In The American Government. His Mind And Motives.
  • Disaster At Sea

    Crew members of the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru had just finished lunch when they felt a jolt, then two explosions. Plunged into darkness, they scrambled on deck as the water rushed in and their 191-foot ship began to founder. As they leaped into the choppy seas off the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the survivors saw a very strange sight: the massive black hull of an American submarine, breaking the surface right before them.The crew of that sub, the USS Greeneville, carrying cruise missiles and heading home to Pearl Harbor after routine operations, will have some explaining to do. Nine people--three crew members, four high-school students on board to learn deep-sea fishing and two teachers--were missing in the collision between the sub and the fishing boat, their fates still unknown Saturday evening.How did it happen? The fishing boat was in an area marked on charts as a channel used by American submarines. As a sub surfaces, its sonar, an acoustical listening device, searches...
  • Life Of O'reilly

    Bill O'Reilly makes more than a million dollars a year, but he's damned if he'll spend $3.50 on a cup of coffee. "I will not go in a Starbucks," he says. He prefers a coffee shop in Manhasset, Long Island, where cops and firemen hang out. Chatting and jousting with the regulars there every morning, he says, he gets many of the questions he will use later that night to interrogate guests on his TV show, "The O'Reilly Factor." Blunt, sometimes obnoxious questions, the kind that most big-media talk-show hosts are too squeamish to ask. Like: Why do gay activists flaunt it? And just where does the Rev. Jesse Jackson get his money? Questions that are uncomfortable and often annoying to his guests but entertaining and dead-on to "the folks," as he calls his fans--a large and growing legion. As O'Reilly never tires of reminding anyone who'll listen, his book, "The O'Reilly Factor," was for 10 weeks the No. 1 best seller, while his show is the highest-rated cable-news program on TV.Many of...
  • 'I Will Work To Build A Single Nation'

    Restoration: With A Solemn Speech, George W. Bush Ends The Age Of Clinton. He's Striking The Right Notes, But Still Faces A Divided Nation
  • The Precarious Prince

    At St. Albans, the tony prep school he attended in Washington 35 years ago, Albert Gore Jr. appeared, at least from a distance, to be a prince among princes. Even in a place populated by other ruling-class scions, Gore stood out. The class of '65 yearbook found him to be "frighteningly good at many things... Popular and respected, he would seem to be the epitome of the All-American young man," wrote the schoolboy editors. "It probably won't be long before Al reaches the top." Flattering and prescient words--but look again. His yearbook entry shows a cartoon of Gore as a statue on a pedestal, with a football, basketball and discus tucked under his arm. Gore is being made fun of, and not very subtly. The caption beneath his portrait quotes Anatole France: "People with no weaknesses are terrible."Al Gore has been a remarkably thoughtful, disciplined and serious public servant. He is far more substantive than most politicians, including George W. Bush. Yet the jokes never stop: in 1988,...
  • Bobby At The Brink

    Bobby Kennedy Seems Frozen In Myth. But The Real Rfk Was Complex, At Once Idealistic And Devious. The Inside Story Of The Cuban Missile Crisis--Where He Found A Way Out, And Grew Up.
  • The New Billionaire To See

    On one morning last march James Kimsey, as a member of the National Gallery's Collectors Committee, helped choose between a half-dozen art works the museum was seeking to acquire (Kimsey voted for a Warhol). Then he went over to the Capitol to talk to Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Kimsey, who is on the Board of Visitors at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was mad because, as he put it, "some congressman was trying to screw West Point out of a new gym." Kimsey and some senators discussed what they could do to make the congressman back down. (He did.) For dinner that night, Kimsey joined several Supreme Court justices in the high court's private dining room. Seated next to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he had to excuse himself early. "I said, 'Sorry, I gotta go.' But I couldn't say why." He was off that night on a secret mission on his private jet--to meet the next morning in the South American jungle with the leader of a rebel army...
  • A Coda To The Cold War

    Religion, wrote Lenin, is a "vile contagion of the most abominable kind." But it was useful cover for the Kremlin's spies. Revived during the Great Patriotic War against Hitler in 1943, the Russian Orthodox Church was controlled by the Fifth Directorate of the KGB. How Russian Orthodox priests traveled the world recruiting not just souls but secret agents for the Rodina (motherland) is one of the great stories of the cold war. Last week the tale took an intriguing American twist with the arrest of George Trofimoff, 73, in Tampa, Fla.A retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Trofimoff became "the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever charged with espionage," according to the Justice Department indictment. Working as a civilian Army employee from 1969 to 1994, Trofimoff helped run a center for interrogating Soviet-bloc refugees in Germany. He had access to many secrets about NATO defenses against the threat of a Soviet invasion. For 25 years, he allegedly photographed top...
  • Bitter Lessons

    The first hints of something wrong at Potomac Elementary came from the kids. Whispering to one another in the hallways and on the playground, then telling their parents after school, a few fifth graders began describing the peculiar behavior of their principal, Karen Karch, as she supervised the state assessment tests in mid-May. Some children who had already finished the test were reportedly summoned by the principal and told to "review" their answers. "You might want to look at this one again," Karch would say, according to the children. Other students were given an extra 20 to 45 minutes to complete the test. At one point during the social-studies section of the test, Karch was said to have held up a map and pointed to the country the students were being quizzed about.The kids were bothered and confused. "Some kids were saying to each other, 'I don't think she's allowed to do that'," one fifth grader told NEWSWEEK. The student, a 10-year-old boy, recounted that he was given extra...
  • Cashing In On Little Elián

    There was the planning team, the intelligence team, the surveillance team, the break-down-the-door team, the snatch team, the perimeter-security team, the neutralize-the-neighbors team, the air wing and the Navy (a fast boat, in case the helicopter couldn't take off). All in all, the Feds prepared to pick up 6-year-old Elián González the way armies prepare for war. Judging from the vituperative postraid response of GOP lawmakers last week, the onslaught by more than 100 Immigration and Naturalization Service agents, several armed with automatic weapons, added up to overkill. House Whip Tom DeLay excoriated "jack-booted thugs," while New York mayor and Senate candidate Rudy Giuliani inveighed against "storm troopers."Yet when the pollsters weighed in, the public turned out to take a different view. Most approved of the raid to return Elián to his father, and many people made clear that they were tired of the whole melodrama. On Capitol Hill, Republicans scheduled, then postponed,...
  • Raid and Reunion

    'What's Happening?' As Last-Minute Talks Failed, Agents Smashed Through The Door, Seized Elián And Took Him To His Father. The Final Hours, A Terrifying Dawn In Little Havana - And What's Next
  • The Last Days Of Saigon

    Frank Snepp was overwhelmed. Like his fellow spooks in Saigon, Snepp, a CIA analyst in the American Embassy, was desperately looking for ways to get his friends and informants out of the country before the South Vietnamese regime collapsed and the communist reprisals began. The North Vietnamese Army was closing in, and the embassy was in turmoil. That afternoon in late April 1975, Snepp got a call from a former girlfriend, a Vietnamese "tea girl" named Mai Ly who claimed to have borne Snepp's son. Could Snepp help the woman and child flee? Busy writing a report for the ambassador, Snepp told Mai Ly to call back in an hour. When she did, the CIA man was away from his desk. He never heard from her again. Less then 24 hours later, dressed in a flak jacket and armed with an M-16, Snepp was helping pull refugees over the embassy wall as the first helicopters lumbered in to begin the final evacuation. One of the frightened South Vietnamese seeking sanctuary was a Saigon policeman whom...
  • The End Of Innocence

    It was way past a 6-year-old boy's normal bedtime, but for Elián González, nothing is normal. Deep into the night, sometime between 11 p.m. on Wednesday and 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, little Elián sat on his bed, peered into the home video camera and emphatically declared, "Papa, I don't want to go to Cuba." He seemed almost indifferent whether his father stayed with him in the United States or returned home. "If you want, stay here," Elián addressed his father, via video. But he was adamant about his own plans. "I'm not going to Cuba," he declared. He said it again, then again, waving his index finger like a tiny but proud orator.The video was shot by Elián's Miami relatives, probably by his great-uncles Lázaro and Delfín. It was furnished to a Spanish-language TV station to show, in the family's view, Elián's true feelings, in his own words. What the video may have revealed instead was something sad--a brave little boy, caught in a cruel custody battle, flying too high in a kind of...