- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

Batting .300

Leave it to a judge who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to summarize the reorganized U.S. intelligence system after one year.

Writing a national security paper for the American Enterprise Institute, Judge Richard A. Posner equates the “ambitious reorganization” of the intelligence community to the “kind of misunderstanding that the commissioner of baseball might harbor if he thought it a scandal that 70 percent of the time even the best hitters fail to get a hit, and if he proposed to boost batting averages to 1.000 by reorganizing the leagues.”

Obviously, “deeply flawed” thinking, says the judge, who upon graduation from Harvard Law School in 1962 clerked for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. In fact, batting averages might drop.

As it is, the “continuing debacle that is the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], still floundering despite the efforts of its able secretary [Michael Chertoff] and his corps of excellent deputies, should make us all suspicious of ambitious reorganizations,” the judge concludes of a resulting bureaucracy of more than 22 separate agencies and 184,000 employees — and still growing.

Knew from experience

Retired Special Forces Major F. Andy Messing, who founded the National Defense Council Foundation in 1978 to popularize the idea of low-intensity conflict, tells Inside the Beltway of a private meeting he had on Sept. 30, 2002, with Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, during which the Vietnam veteran (among other conflicts) warned against a conventional U.S. military assault on Baghdad.

“My associate, [NDCF President] Milt Copulos, and I met with Karl Rove and his deputy in Rove’s office in the White House,” he reveals. “At that time, I warned Karl that a conventional military operation into Iraq was not a good idea, and that a ‘commando’ group should target [Saddam Hussein] and his main boys.

“I described how. I told him at the time that a conventional operation would cost over $100 billion and over 1,000 KIA [killed in action], which it did in the first phase — only to go up to $500 billion and 2,600 [U.S. war dead] now,” notes Mr. Messing, who presented a modus operandi “to take out Saddam.” [The Pentagon’s current official count stands at just under 2,400 dead.]

Ironically, both White House visitors told Mr. Rove that a major energy crisis would likely follow on the heels of any major U.S. intervention in Iraq, affecting America’s economy and possibly destroying the legacy of President Bush.

“I turned the meeting over to Milt, a celebrated energy expert, and he predicted in detail when it was going to happen, exactly how much gasoline [prices] would go to, and how it would ripple in and cripple the economy,” Mr. Messing notes.

Mr. Rove, he says, requested additional proof beyond the briefing paper the pair presented him, which the NDCF later produced at a cost of $68,000.

“The bottom line is we tried to warn them — quietly, and as a team players — everything from radical Muslims were going to attack on Bush’s watch, to conventional forces rolling tanks into Iraq was a bad idea, to the coming energy problem. They didn’t listen,” Mr. Messing states. “And the American people are taking it in the shorts.”

1918 and 1996

After reading Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter’s new book about the first hundred days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, it becomes clear why the ghost of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt chose 1996 — the year of President Clinton’s scandalous affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky — to “converse” with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Actually, “commiserate” is a better word.

It was in 1918, while unpacking Mr. Roosevelt’s bags after a trip to Europe, that Mrs. Roosevelt discovered a bundle of love letters to her husband from her former social secretary, Lucy Mercer, the author recalls in “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.”

While her husband’s affair, like Mr. Clinton’s in 1996, lasted only a few months, Mrs. Roosevelt’s “wound would be permanent, but so was her determination to continue investing in Franklin’s future,” Mr. Alter notes. “In the remaining twenty-seven years of their marriage, they formed a political partnership in which she became her husband’s willing instrument.”

As Mrs. Roosevelt recalled: “He might have been happier with a wife who was completely uncritical. That I was never able to be, and he had to find it in other people.”

At the time of Mrs. Roosevelt’s death in 1962, reveals Mr. Alter, a tattered clipping was discovered atop her bedside table. It was the poem “Psyche,” by Virginia Moore, with the lines: “The soul that had believed/and was deceived/ends by believing more/than ever before.”

Scrawled across the top was simply: “1918.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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