Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Friday, October 22, 2004
Why Condi Rice is Available for Swing-State Visits [UPDATED]

Josh Marshall was
wondering why Condaleeza Rice has time to campaign for W this week:

I've always suspected that the stories about an al Qaida effort to disrupt the American election were, in a word, bogus. I even suspect that much of the heavily publicized efforts to put beefed up security and police patrols around polling stations has at least in part a political motive.
If this whole 'al Qaida disrupting the democratic process' is on the level then we're entering the red zone right about now. We're ten days out from the election.

So why is the National Security Advisor, Condi Rice, out hitting the campaign trail?

Think about that for a second. Is there any possible good answer? Either all the effort to hype an election day al Qaida threat is just another effort to use the White House's control over the intelligence community as a campaign asset or Rice is shirking her duties at a moment of acute national peril.

Maybe this is a clue, hiding in a "Notebook" item in Time Magazine online:
When Senator Mark Dayton shut down his Washington office last week, ostensibly out of concern for his staff's safety, many on Capitol Hill wondered if the Minnesota Democrat knew something everyone else didn't. The answer, it turns out, is far from it. Dayton last month received the same briefing as his fellow Senators about a CIA worst-case scenario involving simultaneous terrorist attacks across the country. Yet he apparently took the hypothetical threat as an imminent one. "Most people who heard the briefing," sniffs an intelligence official, "understood the context. It was theoretical."

Even stranger, Dayton sent his staff home several days after the CIA toned down the dramatic multiple-attack scenario, which the intelligence community "no longer believed to be valid," says the official. The CIA's initial report conflicted sharply with assessments by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that al-Qaeda is no longer able to mount synchronized spectacular events. In fact, fears of a pre-election attack have eased as an all-out push by law-enforcement and intelligence officers has failed to detect any trace of a terrorist cell operating in the U.S. "It's about as quiet as it can possibly be," says a top counterterrorism official. But he and others remain watchful. It was eerily calm before 9/11 too. Dayton's press secretary says the Senator has had "no second thoughts" about the closing.
I don't know how "It was eerily calm before 9/11 too" squares with all the times we've heard about "the highest level of chatter since just before 9/11", but there you go. Anyway, there must be some non-fear-based-election-campaign reason that we're not hearing more about the fact that "an all-out push...has failed to detect any trace of a terrorist cell operating in the U.S." It must be hard trying to sell both "You're safe with me" and "You're in grave danger" at the same time.

UPDATE: And of course, five seconds after I posted this, the Washington Post runs it on its front page.

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