Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Shoe Bomb Plot

The horrors mount daily. The mendacity, hubris, folly, and incompetence of this administration are boundless. Maureen Dowd speaks for all of us in her column in this morning's New York Times, "Smoking Dutch Cleanser," while from the Letters columns arise cries of justified anguish: "I have never been more outraged by my government than I am right now;" "The captains, it seems, are asleep at the helm, and it is every man, woman and child for himself and herself;" and "This administration is not to be trusted. Not ever."

But every once in a while there comes something so preposterous, so stupid, so over the top, that it's funny, deeply, blissfully funny. Thus Thursday morning when Dubya, speaking to the National Guard Association (which presented him with a bronze bust of himself for his gallant service in the Texas Air National Guard---did you know that?), Dubya, I say, revealed for a second or third time that four years ago an al Qaeda plot was foiled in the nick of time to fly an airliner into the tallest building in Los Angeles, a plot in which a shoe bomb was to be used to "breach the cockpit door." I was listening to Al Franken's show on Air America Radio later that morning, and Al had Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe on the line. Franken asked, "How would you use a shoe bomb to breach the cockpit door? I mean, at the least it would blow your legs off, wouldn't it?" Oliphant was laughing helplessly. "I can't wait," he said, "for Scott McClellan to try to explain this one tomorrow morning." Remember, people, that Richard Reid, the original shoe bomber, had only to light the fuse to blow himself and the airplane to kingdom come. A shoe bomb explosion to breach a door within the airplane would have to be a /very carefully /controlled one, wouldn't it? They went to a commercial break, and during those three minutes or so, Franken figured it all out.

Here's how Franken explained it. "The bomber buys a first class ticket, and gets a seat about five rows back from the cockpit. He takes his shoes off and beckons to a cabin attendant. He explains that he's been travelling for some time and hasn't had time to change, and that his feet are smelly because he forgot to put odor eaters in his shoes. He doesn't want to offend, so would she please put his shoes somewhere well away from the other passengers? Say at the cockpit door?"

In the forty-eight hours since, I haven't seen anyone comment on the collossal silliness of this claim, not even--or not, usually so quick to nail the media's blunders and ommisions.

A glum note. Does anyone know Donald E. Powell? I thought not. He's the guy who is the administration's "Gulf Coast recovery czar." Remember when in September Bush pledged to "spend whatever it takes" to bring back New Orleans "bigger and better than ever"? Well, Powell was appointed to do that in early November, so quietly that I missed it for three weeks (no Rose Garden announcement, you may be sure). The minimally acceptable response would have been to create something akin to the Tennessee Valley Authority, or at least to Senator Joseph Lieberman's idiotic brainstorm, the Department of Homeland Security, with a highly qualified hydrologist/ engineer/ environmentalist, given sweeping administrative authority, at its head. Who is Powell? I googled him. Before his appointment as "czar," he was chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, appointed by Bush in 2001. And before that? CEO and chairman of the Boatman's First National Bank of Amarillo, Texas. And head of the Board of Regents of Texas A&M University, where he established the George Bush School of Business Administration. And a member of the board of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. And, oh yes, a Bush-Cheney 2000 "Pioneer," named so for bundling at least $100,000 in campaign contributions. I have seen no mention of this background anywhere in the media. "Don, you're doin' one heckuva job."