Right, and wrong

David Brooks’ column is probably the strongest evidence of pervasive liberal bias at the Times. Okay, the editors thought, we’ve taken some hits lately with this whole Blair/Raines business. We’ll reassert our objectivity by adding a conservative voice to the Op-Ed page. But — they say, allowing themselves just a hint of a smile — it has to be the biggest nitwit we can find.

And so David Brooks was given his own column. And today’s entry is no disappointment.

There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle’s insidious power over administration policy, but I’ve been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he’s shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.

You see, David Brooks knows that Richard Perle’s influence has been overstated because senior administration officials told him so. And anyone who disbelieves senior administration officials — anyone who tries to look at the history and public record of people in power in order to try to understand their underlying motives — well, that person is clearly some kind of loon, some wacky conspiracy theorist who believes that secret messages can be microwaved into dental fillings!

Oh, the devastatingly dismissive wit!

And speaking of conservative Times columnists…

Awhile back, I wrote about William Safire’s odd two-step concerning the allegations that Bush’s plane was specifically and credibly targeted on 9/11. On September 12, 2001, Safire was initially critical of Bush’s scared-bunny act:

Bush should have insisted on coming right back to the Washington area, broadcasting — live and calm — from some secure facility not far from the White House.

However, on September 13, 2001, Safire did a quick about-face:

“It would have been irresponsible of him to come back, pounding his chest,” says my source, “when hostile aircraft may have been headed our way. Any suggestion that he should have done so is ludicrous.”

Confession: I made just that suggestion in yesterday’s column, which stimulated two set-it-straight calls. Why didn’t the V.P. make an appearance during that long afternoon in Bush’s stead? The official reason is that Cheney was busy in the basement; the real reason, I think, is that he was unduly concerned it would appear presumptuous.

The most worrisome aspect of these revelations has to do with the credibility of the “Air Force One is next” message. It is described clearly as a threat, not a friendly warning — but if so, why would the terrorists send the message? More to the point, how did they get the code-word information and transponder know-how that established their mala fides?

That knowledge of code words and presidential whereabouts and possession of secret procedures indicates that the terrorists may have a mole in the White House — that, or informants in the Secret Service, F.B.I., F.A.A. or C.I.A. If so, the first thing our war on terror needs is an Angleton-type counterspy.

The storyline in which terrorists had secret codewords and knowledge of Air Force One was quickly abandoned, and to my knowledge, Safire has never mentioned it again.

So why am I rehashing all of this, at this late date? Well, in his Dec. 29, 2003 column, in the context of scolding Dick Cheney for his secretive energy task force, Safire wrote:

I’ve known Cheney since our Nixon days. He’s thoughtful, calmly conservative, nonpompous, decisive and was accessible to me over the phone on the hectic morning after 9/11.

Ah ha, I thought to myself.

The morning after 9/11, the morning Safire’s critical column appeared in the Times, Cheney was “accessible” to Safire. So doesn’t it seem plausible that the source for the false story — to put it less politely, the flat out lie — about the omniscient terrorists in possession of Air Force One access codes (not to mention the bit about modest ol’ Dick Cheney worrying that he might appear presumptuous) was Dick Cheney himself? (At the very least he would have had a chance to confirm or deny, and he clearly did not do the latter.)

Looks that way to me, at least. Of course, I am trying to draw conclusions which are contrary to the official public statements of senior administration officials, which puts me in tinfoil hat territory as far as David Brooks is concerned.

Now you’ll have to excuse me; there’s a new message coming in through my fillings.

(Edited for clarity, because the aliens told me to.)