Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • The Elian Endgame

    What does Elian Gonzalez make of all this? About once a day, the 6-year-old boy is trotted out before the cameramen who sit outside his house all day in beach chairs. Sometimes, his uncle puts him up on his shoulders, to wave and smile and flash a "V for Victory" salute. Women weep and shove flowers at him and strain to touch him. Occasionally, he is visited by middle-aged legislators in suits--at least one U.S. senator and two congressmen so far--one of whom has given him a dog. Most recently, Diane Sawyer of ABC's "Good Morning America" arrived with a camera crew and a child psychiatrist. Prodded to draw a picture, Elian drew a boat and some waves and explained his mother had not drowned and gone to heaven but had washed ashore and lost her memory. As he floated for two days in his rubber tube, Elian recounted, he was protected from the sharks by friendly dolphins.It could have been a touching fantasy spun by a traumatized boy. Or it could be a piece of crude agit-prop cooked up...
  • Senator Hothead

    Of the 55 republicans in the U.S. Senate, only four support John McCain for president. Most of the rest--39 in all, with two more signing on last week--back George W. Bush. Why can't McCain win the votes of his own colleagues? To explain, a Republican senator tells this story: at a GOP meeting last fall, McCain erupted out of the blue at the respected Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, saying, "Only an a--hole would put together a budget like this." Offended, Domenici stood up and gave a dignified, restrained speech about how in all his years in the Senate, through many heated debates, no one had ever called him that. Another senator might have taken the moment to check his temper. But McCain went on: "I wouldn't call you an a--hole unless you really were an a--hole." The Republican senator witnessing the scene had considered supporting McCain for president, but changed his mind. "I decided," the senator told NEWSWEEK, "I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger."Domenici...
  • The Woman By His Side

    From middle distance, Cindy McCain seems shy, a little fragile, a suburban matron with a rich father and a degree from USC--"the University of Spoiled Children," her husband likes to tease. Watch her on the campaign trail, however, and she comes across as tough and protective. She mothers McCain, unsuccessfully supervising his diet and handing him the bottle of disinfectant he likes to use after serial glad-shaking. During debate preparation, she stands along the back wall, her bright blue eyes watchful as McCain banters and cracks jokes. Cindy, 45, McCain's second wife and nearly 20 years his junior, has always been a partner in political ambition. It was her father, Jim Hensley, a wealthy beer distributor in Arizona, who helped bankroll and launch McCain's first congressional race back in 1982.Still, the senator says that his wife is ambivalent about his run for the presidency. She knew she would have to relive a dark period in her life, when she became addicted to prescription...
  • The Future Of Terror

    In many countries, when police want to clear the streets of any dangerous characters, they "round up the usual suspects" and put them in jail. In the United States, the FBI engages in a more discreet practice known as knock-and-talk. At dawn last Thursday, the day before New Year's Eve, FBI agents in a half-dozen cities across the country knocked on the doors of about 50 people whose phone numbers had shown up in the phone records of Ahmed Ressam, the 32-year-old Algerian who had been caught earlier in December smuggling a carload of bomb-making material into the United States. Only a few arrests were made, mostly for immigration violations, and only in one place, a section of Brooklyn known as Little Pakistan, did the raid look like a scene from the movies. There a counterterror force clad in black pullover masks and body armor ran, shouting, into an apartment building to arrest Abdel Ghani, an alleged co-conspirator of Ressam's. The main purpose of the knock-and-talk dragnet, FBI...
  • Caesar And Edison And... Saylor?

    Michael Saylor, the CEO of MicroStrategy, says his role models are Caesar, Churchill, Lincoln and Gandhi. He's not much interested, he says, in other businessmen, except maybe Henry Ford. Just as Caesar's mission was to "spread civilization," Saylor says his mission is to "purge ignorance from the planet." He wants to make intelligence into a public utility, available "like water or electricity" (Edison is another hero). He wants to create "technology to place the right piece of insight with the right decision maker at the right time." He envisions a society in which choices are always well informed, an environment where danger is avoided and opportunities are never lost. He wants to eliminate waste and vanquish mediocrity.How will he achieve this smart new world? By placing a wireless device one tenth the size of a watch on your wrist and a tiny speaker in your ear, whispering practical information pulled off the Web. Has your flight home been canceled? A little voice will alert...
  • Hard Of Hearing

    In the 1998 movie "Enemy of the State," rogue operators from the supersecret National Security Agency (NSA; sometimes known as No Such Agency) assassinate a U.S. congressman who's trying to limit the NSA's electronic spooks' ability to listen in on ordinary Americans. The film plays to the "Big Brother is watching you" paranoia of people who assume that the government can, and routinely does, eavesdrop on innocent conversations. Watching the movie one night last winter at his local cineplex, Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Hayden, the new chief of the NSA, slunk down in his seat as the audience jeered the bad-guy spies. By the end of the film, Hayden recently recalled, he was practically hiding in his seat.Hayden, who says privacy should be protected from government snooping, worries about his once invisible spy outfit's poor public image. The public may take an even dimmer view when it learns of a new alliance between the NSA and the FBI. NEWSWEEK has learned that the NSA is now drafting ...
  • A New War Over Vouchers

    The wolves are coming!" cried out the Rev. Wendell Armstrong, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. A chorus of "amen" rang out in the crowded church. The "wolves," said Armstrong, "are coming in the shape of vouchers, dressed in sheep's clothing!" Vouchers--public and privately funded scholarships that enable schoolchildren to attend private schools--threaten to wreck the public-school system, declared Armstrong and 11 other speakers during a recent three-hour rally at Fellowship Chapel in northwest Detroit. "Vouchers don't educate, they segregate," warned NAACP president Kweisi Mfume.Vouchers are still very much of an educational experiment, affecting perhaps .1 percent of American schoolchildren. Only a couple of cities--Milwaukee and Cleveland--have large-scale programs. Polls show that most whites are indifferent to vouchers and are satisfied with their public schools. But vouchers are popular with some poor African-Americans and Hispanics eager to get their kids out...
  • A Question Of Privacy

    Technology is a two-edged sword. Rarely is this as clear as it is in the realm of health care. Technology allows doctors to test their patients for genetic defects--and then to turn around and spread the results throughout the world via the Internet. For someone in need of treatment, that's good news. But for someone in search of a job or an insurance policy, the tidings can be all bad.Last week President Bill Clinton proposed a corollary to the patients' bill of rights now before Congress: a right to medical privacy. Beginning in 2002, under rules set to become law in February, patients would be able to stipulate the conditions under which their personal medical data could be divulged. They would be able to examine their records and make corrections. They could learn who else had seen the information. Improper use of records by a caregiver or insurer could result in both civil and criminal penalties. The plan was, said Clinton, "an unprecedented step toward putting Americans back...
  • Gentleman Pol

    Sen. John Chafee, of Rhode Island, who died last week at 77, landed at Guadalcanal as a 19-year-old Marine in 1942. He fought at Okinawa, the Marines' bloodiest battle, and was recalled during the Korean War as the commander of a rifle company. Yet as a politician, he hardly ever mentioned his experiences in combat. At a time when congressmen are known for posturing and partisanship, Chafee was a moderate Republican who worked closely with Democrats, especially to safeguard the environment. He was remembered last week for his stubborn gentility and his decency.
  • The Burdens Of An Insider

    James (Scotty) Reston, The New York Times's top Washington reporter from the 1940s through the '70s, personified a certain kind of journalist. He was a true insider, the sort of figure who referred to Washington as "this town" and picked up story tips in the lobby of the Metropolitan Club. To an older generation of newsmen he was a role model, but after Watergate made Washington journalism more adversarial, he was regarded by some as a tool of the establishment. Late in his life (Reston died in 1995 at 86), he knew that his reputation was tarnished. In 1980 he wrote his fellow Timesman Tom Wicker that he was "bother[ed]" by "the suggestion that I have been allowed upstairs because I would peddle whatever garbage the great men wanted to put on my conveyor belt... It's true that I have used the column as a vehicle for interviews with every big shot I could find anywhere in the world, but there has never been any personal relationship in any of this."But like many Washington reporters,...
  • Trouble To The Right

    It looked, for a moment, like a perfect opportunity for George W. Bush. Pat Buchanan, the pugnacious conservative, had suggested in a new book that the United States could have avoided fighting Nazi Germany in World War II. At the same time, Buchanan was threatening to bolt the Republican Party. Bush might have said good riddance to Buchanan, and used the moment to denounce extremism in the GOP. The model was Bill Clinton, who at the right moment in the 1992 election signaled his distance from Jesse Jackson and the Democratic left by denouncing the violent rhetoric of rap singer Sister Souljah. Instead, Bush said nothing at first, and then tepidly asked Buchanan to remain loyal to the GOP.Why did Bush hold back? He kept his cool even after Sen. John McCain, who is emerging as his one credible challenger, jumped at the chance to denounce Buchanan for being soft on Nazism. Bush, it turns out, was paying attention to simple mathematics, say his aides. If Buchanan runs as a third-party...
  • The Path Of An Imperfect Storm

    The more beautiful the eye of a hurricane, the more dangerous the storm. So when hurricane hunter Gerry McKim punched his plane through the seamless eight-mile-high wall of Hurricane Floyd on Saturday, Sept. 11, he instantly began worrying for the safety of his family back in Florida. "The eye wall was spectacular," said McKim. "It was perfectly round, and the storm walls were thick and muscular. It looked like the inside of the Rose Bowl. Like the inside of an ice-cream cone. It was something to be afraid of."McKim was still anxious when he took off four days later with a crew of 16 hurricane watchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a couple of reporters from NEWSWEEK and CNN. A former Navy flier who had chased Soviet subs during the cold war, McKim, 55, was making what he says is probably his last flight as a hurricane hunter. Ten years ago to the day, he had almost died when his plane hit a tornado in Hurricane Hugo. Two of his crew members quit...
  • The Last Of His Kind

    He had commanded the most savage war-fighting fleet ever assembled and vanquished the enemy. But now, on the eve of Japan's surrender, Adm. John McCain sat in his cabin, feeling sad and low. "I'm lost," he told one of his aides. "I don't know what to do. I know how to fight, but now I don't know whether I know how to relax or not." A few days later, spent by war, his usefulness finished, Admiral McCain died of a heart attack.The admiral's grandson Sen. John McCain tells that story to begin his moving memoir, "Faith of My Fathers" (349 pages. Random House. $25). The book is meant to be a paean to his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals; a remembrance of his own grueling experiences in the Vietnam War, and, not coincidentally, the campaign biography of a candidate for president. The book amply demonstrates that McCain was a brave warrior and an honorable man. Whether it shows that McCain would make a good president is a more complicated question.McCain's faith, and the...
  • Jfk Jr.'S Final Journey

    Inside the church, the grief was real. Sen. Edward Kennedy's voice caught as he read his lovely eulogy, and when he was done, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg stood up and hugged him. She bravely read from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" ("Our revels now are ended. We are such stuff as dreams are made on"). Many of the 315 mourners, family and friends of the Kennedys and Bessettes, swallowed hard through a gospel choir's rendition of "Amazing Grace," and afterward, they sang lustily as Uncle Teddy led the old Irish songs at the wake.After the last eulogy was said, the last tear fell and the last camera clicked off, there remained the painful thought of what might have been. John F. Kennedy Jr. "had only just begun," said his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy. "There was in him a great promise of things to come."Outside the church, where the cameras peered and the talking heads spoke in low and mournful tones, the sorrow seemed more contrived. In a celebrity age, without any overarching national...
  • Living With The Myth

    As a schoolboy, John F. Kennedy Jr. was playful, a prankster, a little hyperactive, and he liked to give the Secret Service the slip. One day, "Lark" (his Secret Service code name) eluded his guardians in Central Park and was promptly mugged by a thief who made off with his expensive Italian bicycle. The Secret Service was embarrassed, but Jackie Kennedy, somewhat surprisingly, said the experience was good for her son, that it would help him to grow up like other boys. The president's widow wanted to protect her child, but not in a gilded cage. She understood that John Kennedy needed to be set free from the burden of his past.In his own way, he was. Not free of his name, though he preferred to be called "just John" without the middle initial or the "Jr." (Contrary to myth, his family never called him John-John--the nickname was a reporter's invention.) Not free of celebrity. Although he was not afraid to take a swing at a paparazzo who pushed too close, he certainly wasn't shy about...
  • The Private Eleanor

    The First Lady goes off on a driving trip, without Secret Service protection, with her alleged lesbian lover. Reporters finally catch up and give chase at high speed--shades of Diana--but the First Lady pulls over, takes out her knitting and calmly refuses to say where she is going. The news hounds back off. Not a word is printed.It could never happen today. But Hillary Clinton's idol, Eleanor Roosevelt, was permitted a zone of privacy modern politicians can only envy. In 1992, the first volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (also known as "ER") caused a flap when Cook, a feminist historian, asserted what others had hinted at or gossiped about--that the First Lady had both a male lover (her former bodyguard Earl Miller) and a female lover, Lorena Hickok. Historians harrumphed that Cook could not prove a physical relationship, but the letters she excerpts in her second of presumably several volumes are suggestive ("Darling, I ache for you...").In numbing...
  • Why Clinton Won

    ON JAN. 5, TWO WEEKS after the House had impeached President Clinton, eight ranking senators--four Republicans and four Democrats--met privately in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's hideaway office on the third floor of the Capitol. The most senior senator, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, had something he wanted to say. At 96, Thurmond does not speak up much these days, and when he does, his drawl can be hard to comprehend. But on this occasion he was perfectly clear about the prospects for convicting the president of high crimes and misdemeanors. ""It takes two thirds to get rid of this fella,'' said Thurmond. ""We don't have it. Let's get it over.'' ...
  • The Ringmaster

    DOWN A WINDING hallway in a basement in Queens, N.Y., Don Imus sits, chain-chewing Nicorette gum but otherwise perfectly still, in his windowless office stuffed with books. A .357 magnum revolver rests on his desk. At 58, his face is weathered from riding the range on his ranch in New Mexico and years (long over) of abusing alcohol and cocaine. He says he is hard of hearing from listening to rock music. He seems slightly addled, bemused, wary and cunning.It's just before Christmas, and the House is scheduled to vote on impeachment the next day. Imus is talking to Bernard McGuirk, his producer, about possible guests for the next morning's show. ""We'll get Russert on,'' he says, referring to NBC's Tim Russert. ""We'll make him hysterical. We'll get him to say something wrong again.'' A visiting reporter inquires what it was that Russert got wrong. Imus fixes the reporter with his I'm-crazy-as-hell stare. ""What was he wrong about? He's wrong about everything! Everything!'' (Russert's...
  • At War In The Pentagon

    THE MARINES WERE INDIGNANT. Assistant Secretary of the Army Sara Lister had been quoted saying that the ""marines are extremists. Wherever you have extremists, you've got some risks of total disconnections with society, and that's a little dangerous.'' Gen. Charles Krulak, the commandant of the Marine Corps, quickly counterattacked, accusing Lister of ""dishonor[ing] the hundreds of thousands of marines whose blood has been shed in the name of freedom.'' On Capitol Hill, conservative leaders angrily demanded Lister's resignation. Within hours, Lister, a 57-year-old lawyer, was out of her job, seemingly done in by her intemperate remarks. ...
  • Who's In Charge Here?

    To avert a military showdown, Russia cuts a deal with Iraq. Clinton is going along--for now. But will Saddam play by the rules? Behind the dance over oil, weapons and power. ...
  • Pool Parties In Camelot?

    AFTER A TOUGH MORNING IN THE Oval Office, John F. Kennedy liked to take a dip in the White House pool. The purpose, according to early hagiographers, was to soothe the president's aching back. According to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, however, Kennedy was taking care of other needs. As the Secret Service stood guard outside, the president routinely skinny-dipped with two of his favorite female assistants, nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle. One day, warned that Jackie was on her way to the pool for an unexpected swim, the president and his fellow frolickers scrambled for cover. ""You could see one big pair of footprints and two smaller pair of wet footprints leading to the Oval Office,'' a Secret Service man told Hersh.Hersh has amassed a wealth of such titillating details for his new book, ""The Dark Side of Camelot'' (498 pages. Little, Brown. $26.95). Unfortunately, many of the juicier stories aren't exactly new. The scene of Jackie unexpectedly returning to the White House...
  • Nixon Off The Record

    For the first time, in newly transcribed tapes, hear how Nixon set up his own fall. It's 1971, and he wants dirt on the Democrats--even if it means burglary. His order: "Get it done.'FOR RICHARD NIXON, THE wedding of his eldest daughter, Tricia, to Edward Cox on June 12, 1971, was a golden PR opportunity. As usual, Nixon had been obsessing about the Kennedys. It infuriated him that Jack Kennedy had always been portrayed as a warm and loving father, frolicking for the cameras with his children. Always eager to learn from his enemies, Nixon figured that he, too, could manipulate the press into picturing him as a family man. Elaborately staged in the Rose Garden, the First Daughter's wedding, Nixon predicted, would be ""the biggest news story going,'' according to his chief of staff, H. R. (Bob) Haldeman. The massive coverage would, Nixon thought, ""jell the family feeling.''So when Nixon picked up The New York Times on Sunday, June 13, he was surprised to see that his daughter's...
  • 'Baby Jessica' Grows Up

    THE TREE THEY PLANTED BY THE well where she almost died a decade ago has long since withered, and the flower bed is now a dirt patch. But the oil painting still hangs in the civic center: Baby Jessica, the golden-haired angel, held aloft by her rescuers. A TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, says the plaque on the wall, and it was. On Oct. 16, 1987, as the world watched, the dusty, hard-luck town of Midland, Texas, came together to rescue a little girl trapped in a dark hole far below the ground. What came later was less uplifting. The parents bitterly divorced. Addicted to sudden fame, tempted by money, the town split apart over a made-for-TV movie. The man who actually pulled Jessica to safety killed himself. Ten years later, the story of Baby Jessica seems like a Frank Capra movie in reverse: first the redemption, then the fall. It is a morality tale that is not lost on the ordinary people who were made instant heroes--and came to rue their celebrity.At the time, the people of Midland...
  • A Question Of Respect

    DARYL JONES IS A HIGH FLIER. Valedictorian of his high school, he graduated from the Air Force Academy to become a fighter pilot. As a Florida state senator he is regarded as smooth and unflappable. He is a good church man and a good family man. Sometime in the next month, President Clinton plans to make Jones, 42, the secretary of the air force--the first African-American to hold the job.Jones gets less respect from his former fellow pilots in the 93rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, a reserve unit flying out of Homestead Air Force Base. Maj. Alan Estis, a reservist who flies for an airline and who was slated to become the squadron's next commander, told NEWSWEEK that he just resigned from the air force because he did not want to work for Jones. Most other pilots would not speak out publicly, but they gave NEWSWEEK copies of flight records and official memorandums clearly showing that senior officers in his squadron regarded Jones as an unsafe flier with an attitude problem.The tricky...
  • The Family That Spies Together ...

    BACK IN THE 1960S AND '70S campuses clanged with chants like ""Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh! NLF is going to win!'' and ""Si Si Sihanouk! Rotcee building's gonna cook!'' Many students denounced their government, but few actually spied for communist countries. Last week the FBI arrested three who allegedly did: James Michael Clark, Theresa Marie Squillacote and Kurt Alan Stand, suspected of acting as agents of East German intelligence for nearly two decades.The latest in a series of post-cold-war spy stories, this one has a different twist. According to the FBI, the three suspects were paid as much as $40,000 by their East German spymasters during one four-year period, but unlike with recent traitors who sold out for cash, ideology seems to have been a more important motive. The key to this story is family loyalty, a sad tale of trying to please one's parents by keeping faith with communism--while committing treason.A tall, rail-thin student radical who chain-smoked and spouted Marxist rhetoric...
  • The Mayor's Marriage

    IMAGINE BEING MARRIED to Rudy Giuliani. In a metropolis of 8 million, he needs to show up anywhere two cameras are gathered; in a city that never sleeps, neither does he, according to his latest campaign ads. Like most successful politicians, Giuliani spends more time in the office or in his official off-white Chevy Suburban with blacked-out windows than he does at home. And like most striving executives, he spends more time with his staff than he does with his wife and children. Real ""family time'' has to be squeezed into the schedule. Throw in a nosy press corps that stakes out the mayor's mansion to see if the First Lady still sleeps there, and you have the marital state of Donna Hanover, 47. ...
  • At War In The Ranks

    ROBERT DAVIS, A BLACK MAN, AND Katharine Laughton, a white woman, loved the U.S. Navy. One of 10 children in a family of modest means, Davis, 54, enlisted in the navy in 1960 and rose through the ranks to become a commander. Laughton, 55, joined up because, as a woman, she could not get a good civilian job in 1963, despite graduating with honors from the University of California. After three decades of hard work, she became one of the first women in the navy to be promoted to flag rank. Both Laughton and Davis are models of duty and upward mobility - or were, until their careers collided over charges of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. ...
  • A Bare-Knuckled Brawl

    AT THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS Dinner last April, Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts happily and heedlessly told any number of the thousand or so journalists in attendance that he was going to be named ambassador to Mexico. When he ran into the secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, she asked him to be quiet, because, as she explained with mild exasperation, ""we haven't told Mexico yet.'' More important, perhaps, the Clinton administration had not told Sen. Jesse Helms, the powerful and prickly chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. When he heard the news, Helms sent an aide to tell reporters that the only way Weld, a fellow Republican, would get to Mexico was ""as a tourist.'' Helms's stated reason for opposing Weld is that the governor, a former prosecutor who supports the medical use of marijuana, is soft on drugs. ""Phoney baloney,'' says Weld. ...
  • Facing Death

    ANDREW CUNANAN was a great and gaudy pretender. He improved upon his breeding, his education, his employment (he had none), even his name. He created, out of his imagination, a flamboyant persona, the rich homosexual playboy who waves a fat cigar and always picks up the check. He bragged that he was the scion of a Filipino plantation owner, when his father is actually said to be a failed stockbroker on the lam. His public manner was fun-loving and generous. In private, his fantasies, pursued with leather straps and latex masks, were darker and more insistent. Cunanan's bright side craved attention. His dark side discovered that he could get it by killing. ...