We Need Chloe!
By MAUREEN DOWD
You'd think Michael Chertoff would have something more important to do.
The hapless homeland security chief could snatch more money away from American locales most likely to be hit by Al Qaeda. Or let another wonderful city fall into a watery abyss. Or go on TV and help cable news hype the saga of the Miami gang of terrorist wannabes who look like they couldn't find the local Sears, let alone the Sears Tower.
These guys were so lame they asked an informant for boots, radios, binoculars, uniforms and cash, believing he was Al Qaeda — and that jihadists need uniforms.
Instead, the cadaverous Chertoff was gallivanting on stage yesterday morning with some fictional counterterrorism experts from "24." The producers, writer and three actors from the Fox show appeared at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Drawing on his old scripts, Mr. Reagan was a master at mixing fiction and fact, but he was a piker compared with the Bush crowd.
The audience included Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, who held a dinner at the Supreme Court Thursday for the Tinseltown terror brigade. Rush Limbaugh, who said that Dick Cheney and Rummy were huge fans of "24," was master of ceremonies for the panel, titled, " '24' and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does It Matter?"
It doesn't in this administration.
Better to have a panel in praise of Jack Bauer than admit we have no real Jack Bauers to find Osama and his murderous acolytes. Better to pretend that rounding up a bunch of Florida losers whose plan was more "aspirational than operational," as one F.B.I. official put it, is a great blow in the war on terror than to really turn our intelligence agencies and Homeland Security into the relentless, resourceful and fearsome organizations they are in fiction — and should be, given the billions spent on them.
Lulled by our spy thrillers and Tom Clancy novels, we used to take for granted that our intelligence agencies were just as capable as heroes on the screen. Jack Ryan, either the Harrison Ford, the Alec Baldwin or even the Ben Affleck version, could have gotten Osama single-handedly in the two hours allotted.
Even though they still haven't captured the fiend behind 9/11, W. and Dick Cheney still blend fact and fiction by using 9/11 to justify their wrongheaded venture in Iraq.
As the vice president told CNN's John King this week, when he was asked about his claim that "we would be greeted as liberators" in Iraq: "It does not make any sense for people to think that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans, leave the Middle East, walk away from Iraq, and we'll be safe and secure here at home. 9/11 put the lie to that."
In a macabre metric of improvement, Dr. Death also noted that things were looking up. "There are a lot more Iraqis becoming casualties in this conflict at present because they are now in the fight," he said cheerily.
Some of W.'s closest allies have begun privately calling Vice "an absolute disaster," but when will W. realize how twisted his logic is?
In the new book "The One Percent Doctrine," Ron Suskind writes that C.I.A. officials referred to Mr. Cheney as "Edgar," as in Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and that W. had to ask his domineering second to pull back a little at meetings and not offer him advice in crowded rooms so they could continue to pretend that Mr. Cheney was not the puppet-master.
On the homeland security set, Mr. Chertoff, flanked by the actors who play the beautiful technogeek Chloe and President Logan, seemed a little fuzzy about whether the fancy technology on "24" exists.
He noted, "One thing you don't see on '24' is when the computer's crashing and having to get the I.T. people to come in to reboot and get the computer working again." Given that the F.B.I. is struggling to get a computer system that can simultaneously search for "flight" and "schools," his answer was not all that funny.
Asked about the slashing of anti-terrorism money given to New York, he replied that "we've put a lot of extra money into northern New Jersey." (Wow, I feel better already.)
Mr. Limbaugh slyly suggested the producers give Jack Murtha a cameo as K.G.B. chief. He praised "24" for giving torture a good name.
This past season, the show began exploring what happens when a Nixonian president becomes so obsessed with national security that he starts undermining the country's laws.
That's the kind of fiction you hate to see become fact.