Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • 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. ...
  • Inside The Mind Of A Spy

    EARL PITTS, FORMER FUTURE Farmer of America, army captain, FBI agent - and, more recently, spy for the KGB - stood before the judge to receive his sentence. ""Mr. Pitts,'' federal district court Judge T. S. Ellis III said last week, ""I have just one question: why did you do it?'' Pitts, looking pasty and worn in an olive drab jumpsuit with PRISONER stenciled on the back, hesitated. ""I gave in to an unreasoning anger,'' he stammered. The judge was contemptuous. ""You never mentioned simple greed,'' he told Pitts, and sentenced him to 27 years in prison. ...
  • The Plan And The Man

    During the winter of 1946-47, the worst in memory, Europe seemed on the verge of collapse. For the victors in World War II, there were no spoils. In London, coal shortages left only enough fuel to heat and light homes for a few hours a day. In Berlin, the vanquished were freezing and starving to death. On the walls of the bombed-out Reichstag, someone scrawled "Blessed are the dead, for their hands do not freeze." European cities were seas of rubble - 500 million cubic yards of it in Germany alone. Bridges were broken, canals were choked, rails were twisted. Across the Continent, darkness was rising. ...
  • Sex And Lies

    Minot, N.D., is a flat and lonely place. There's not much there, aside from the 150 nuclear-tipped ICBMs buried in the surrounding wheat fields. A young first lieutenant could grow bored and restless, especially if she were the air force's first (and only) female B-52 pilot. Lt. Kelly Flinn believed that dating other pilots would be "unprofessional," so she turned down their advances. Her fellow aviators speculated that the 26-year-old was a lesbian. She drank an occasional beer at Peyton Place, the local pickup bar, but the bartender never saw her there with another man. ...
  • Remembering Fdr

    AT THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL in Washington, bereaved families and friends often leave mementos--flowers, letters, old war medals--under the names carved on the Wall. At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which will be dedicated next week, some protesters are planning a discomforting variation on the theme. Angry that Roosevelt's paralysis had been given scant attention by the designers of the memorial, they told reporters that they planned to leave their own remembrances--old wheelchairs, leg braces, crutches and canes--inside the memorial for tourists to step over and around each day. ...
  • A Question Of Consent

    THEY CALLED IT "THE GAME." at Aberdeen Proving Ground, army drill sergeants allegedly passed around a list of female recruits "locked in tight"--which meant they were willing to have sex. Some of the women, teenagers fresh out of high school, were intimidated by all-powerful drill instructors. But others used sex to get ahead--in army lingo, "sleeping with drill sergeants for stripes." Still others had sex with their DIs simply because they wanted to. ...
  • 'The Next Level'

    EXCEPT FOR THE STINK OF DEATH, everything was neat and tidy. Police found no sign of struggle or even discomfort among the 39 corpses. Each member of the cult followed the written instructions to "lay back and relax" after swallowing the phenobarbital-laced pudding chased with vodka. The cultists had apparently died in waves, 15 the first day, at least 15 the second and the survivors the third. Only the last two to go, a pair of women, still wore plastic bags over their heads. The rest lay quietly in their new black sneakers, under diamond-shaped purple shrouds. ...
  • The Trouble With Newt

    IN JOURNALS OF OPINION, covering Newt Gingrich has become a kind of death watch. Last month a widely read cover story in The New Republic was titled "The Madness of King Newt." Then the conservative Weekly Standard--once pro-Newt--wondered whether Gingrich was in "meltdown." The lead article--by a fellow GOP congressman, Peter King--called the speaker "political road kill." Gingrich's trip to China was intended to position the speaker as a statesman--but he was attacked by conservatives when his initial itinerary omitted a stop in Taiwan, the right's favorite bastion of anti-communism in the Far East. ...
  • Judgment Day

    THE FIRST PIECE OF EVIDENCE FELL OUT OF the sky. At about 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995, Richard Nichols, a maintenance man in Oklahoma City, was huddled on the floor of his car, cowering from an enormous blast that seemed to sweep over him like a prairie twister, when he heard a strange whooshing noise. It sounded, he thought, like a giant boomerang spinning right at him. With a crash, a heavy rod of twisted metal smashed into the hood of his car, shattering the windshield. It was a truck axle. It had belonged to a Ryder truck filled with two tons of explosives that had, moments earlier, transformed the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building into a mass morgue. ...
  • Falling Out Of The Sky

    LT. (J.G.) CAREY LOHRENZ WANTED to fit in. She was willing to put up with the loutish behavior of her fellow pilots, the misogynist jokes and the male strutting. She understood why naval aviators sometimes act like fraternity boys. Landing a 35-ton, $40 million warplane on a heaving deck in the middle of the night is extremely difficult. In the clubby world of naval aviators, macho posturing is a way of fighting off fear, drinking and carousing a way of easing the pressure. Lohrenz, a 22-year-old University of Wisconsin grad whose father, brother and husband were all navy or Marine pilots, was eager to join the brotherhood. ...
  • Trouble In The Ranks

    GENE MCKINNEY, THE SERGEANT major of the U.S. Army, is the most senior of the army's 410,000 enlisted men. He has a staff of six and an office on the E-Ring of the Pentagon alongside the army chief of staff. A decorated Vietnam veteran, McKinney has long been regarded as a model soldier and an important symbol of African-American success in the military. Last November he was appointed to a commission charged with reviewing the army's sexual-harassment policies. That was too much for one of his former aides, Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster, who read about McKinney's latest achievement in the newspaper. Last week Hoster went public with accusations that McKinney tried to sexually assault her in a hotel room. ...
  • The Role Of A Lifetime

    TENNESSEE SEN. FRED THOMPSON scowled as he listened to the story about his red pickup truck. According to a recent article, Senator Thompson had been spotted secretly ditching his truck, a popular symbol of his folksy campaign, and driving off in a ""sweet silver luxury sedan'' one night after a speech in Tennessee. Thompson denies the whole thing. But what seems to bother him is not so much the suggestion that he was a phony, but rather that he would take foolish risks. ""Do you think,'' he growls, ""that I'd do anything so dumb?''Thompson leaves little to chance. He has played a submarine captain in the movies, won re-election to the U.S. Senate and may be a formidable presidential candidate in 2000. But Thompson, a divorced 54-year-old, is perhaps best understood as a lawyer. He likes to be in control, and he hates surprises. That's why he has been grinding lately. Next month he will begin chairing hearings into alleged Democratic campaign-finance abuses. ""He's absolutely...
  • Death Of A Truthteller

    IN THE WINTER OF 1991, PAUL TSONGAS gathered his family together to give them some important news. His three children worried when they saw the grave look on their father's face. Tsongas had been told in 1984 that he was almost sure to die from cancer of the lymph nodes. Dropping his promising political career, the former Massachusetts senator had undergone radical treatment--and survived. Now his children wanted to know: was Daddy sick again?"It's something worse," said Tsongas. "I want to run for president."The answer was classic Tsongas. A wry, self-deprecating man, Tsongas, who died last week at 55, nonetheless saw himself on a mission. He called it "the obligation of my survival." As a congressman and senator from 1975 to 1984, Tsongas had been one of the first Democrats to really question the Big Government credo of liberalism. Now, plunging into the 1992 Democratic primaries, he warned America that it had to face up to the crippling national debt.Tsongas could be preachy....
  • Friends For Now

    RELATIONS BETWEEN Presidents and vice presidents are famously chilly; between their wives, catty or worse. Jackie Kennedy used to refer to Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird as "Uncle Cornpone and his Little Porkchop," and in eight years the Reagans never once invited the Bushes to dine in the White House residence. The Clintons and Gores have been exceptions to the rule. Al Gore's clout with Bill Clinton is by now well established. "The president doesn't make a decision without consulting Gore. He just doesn't," says a presidential adviser. White House spinners start to gush when they match up the two couples. They listen to country music, dance together, go to church together, jog together. Their children are all attractive. They even psychobabble together: "We achieved what I call gestalt," says Gore.The reality, according to people who have spent time with both couples, is more complicated and more interesting. There is genuine affection between the Clintons and the Gores, but also...
  • Social Insecurity

    As an alarming number of Americans gloomily give up on the future of Social Security, Washington is scrambling for solutions. A presidential commission wants to put the nation's retirement money in the ever-volatile stock market. But there are better ways to preserve the most popular government program in history than just taking a plunge. Trouble is, few in power want to talk about them--yet.Daniel patrick moynihan can be a gloomy Irishman, but over the years Washington has learned to listen to his jeremiads. He predicted the collapse of both the inner cities and the Soviet system long before either seemed imminent. The senior senator from New York, who advised both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, has been trying to shore up the welfare state since he was a professor at Harvard in the 1960s. Lately, he has heard the foundations cracking.Last week Moynihan sat in his darkened office on Capitol Hill, unhappily contemplating the uncertain future of Social Security. He noted that...
  • See Dick Run The Country

    AS DICK MORRIS TELLS IT IN his new memoir, "Behind the Oval Office," he called up the president one day last August to lecture him on ways to improve his place in history. He told Bill Clinton that, barring a war, he would never rank in the "first tier" of presidents. "I broke the news to him gently," writes Morris. " "Okay'," said Clinton, who then ventured hopefully, " "[How about] second tier?' " Morris was starting to tell Clinton "the three big things and four medium things" he had to do to break out of the "third tier" when the president asked him to wait a second. He needed to get a paper and pen. " "Okay'," said Clinton when he returned to the phone. " "What are the big things?' "Are we to believe this story? It could, of course, just be Morris's vast ego talking. The disgraced consultant claims he was able to reconstruct his private conversations with the president from memory. During these talks, it often appears that Morris was busy running the president's re-election...
  • The Spy Who Sold Out

    STUDENT SPIES AT ""THE Farm''--Camp Peary, the CIA's 9,275-acre training ground near Williamsburg, Va.--are taught to make ""surveillance detection runs,'' better known in spook parlance as ""dry cleaning.'' They learn how to tell if they are being followed by looking at the reflections off shop windows, by retracing their steps, by entering and quickly exiting subway terminals. The students under the tutelage of Harold J. Nicholson, a CIA veteran who taught at the Farm in 1994 and 1995, should wonder about the quality of their instruction. Last June, Nicholson slipped out of the Garden Wing of the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore on a dry-cleaning run that took him past department-store windows, up and down bustling streets, in and out of a subway station. Satisfied that he wasn't being followed, he climbed into the back of a limousine with Russian diplomatic license plates. The FBI was watching the whole thing. ...
  • An American Melodrama

    ALGER HISS WAS ""FIRST RATE IN every way,'' according to Felix Frankfurter, his professor at Harvard Law School. He was tall, handsome, perhaps a bit arrogant but graceful and sure. Voted ""best hand shaker'' at Johns Hopkins, Hiss had been a protEgE of Oliver Wendell Holmes; a State Department aide to FDR at Yalta; president of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. It sometimes seemed as if the entire Eastern establishment was ready to rise to his defense. He could not have been a Soviet spy. ...
  • A Heroic Failure

    AS YOUNGSTERS, MOST GREAT American leaders were not expected to turn out to be formidable figures. They were neither popular, athletic nor commanding. They did, however, have one thing in common: a sense of history. They got it from reading -- alone at night by firelight like Lincoln or while sickly and bedridden like Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Nearsighted, flat-footed and bookish, young Newt Gingrich was, at least in this sense, just like them. ...
  • Riddle Of The Depths

    As divers dodge sharks to solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800, the Feds are trapped between scores of grieving families and an incredibly complex caseTHE DIVERS CALL IT MAKO CITY, AFTER THE MEDIUM-size sharks that prowl there. In a seabed 130 feet beneath the Atlantic nine miles off the coast of New York's Long Island, small whales, sea turtles and sharks meander around a maze of thick wire cables and shards of jagged metal. It is forever twilight in the graveyard of TWA Flight 800; a diver swimming into the stygian gloom risks becoming entangled in the debris, or slicing an air hose, or coming face to face with a hammerhead. Or a corpse.Hardly an ideal working environment: entering it, one diver told The Washington Post, was like being "lowered into hell." Yet out of this gloom must come answers, and none too soon. The victims' families, who are understandably beginning to sound more like hostages than like mourners, are demanding the bodies of their loved ones. The gumshoes, on...
  • Death On Flight 800

    THE DEAD DO SOMETIMES TELL tales, if you know how to look for them. Behind drawn shades in the autopsy rooms of the Suffolk County medical examiner's office, Dr. Charles Wetli and his team of 10 pathologists were looking for clues that could explain exactly how the 230 passengers of TWA Flight 800 died. The body of a person killed by a bomb looks different from the body of a victim in an ""ordinary'' plane crash. The flesh of bomb victims is shredded and may be singed by chemicals. But most of the corpses Wetli and his team examined had been killed by the impact of hitting the water after falling from a height of more than two miles -- a long (a minute and a half) and terrible way to die. The mystery of their deaths will be solved -- in time. But it won't be easy, and it probably won't be quick.In the heavy swells off New York's Long Island coast last weekend, a high-tech Pinger Locater System trolled the ocean bottom looking for the all-important black boxes (which are actually...