Back a few years ago, you may recall a small book of that name marketed in the usual places like Imus’ show.   Apparently, the author, Malcolm Gladwell, campaigns for snap judgments.  According to, he can indeed explain why Coke tastes different than Pepsi. 

Fad books are the dengue fever of our media saturated age. Yet, under controlled conditions, one can usefully hang a post on one of them. Consider the case of F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller. Or Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Or James Goldsmith, head of the formerly elite Office of Legal Counsel at DoJ. Or even a bed-ridden Ashcroft. 


We didn’tt see the Comey testimony live. Apparently, some fast footwork followed.  First, Ashcroft’s wife called him (Comey) in March 2004 and warned him that Card and Gonzales were coming to the hospital. This alone sends massive signals about tensions between A.G.A.G. then and Ashcroft.

Second, being bright, Comey grabbed some deputies and sped to the hospital. James Goldsmith, head of OLC, was among them. They beat Card and A.G.A.G. there.

Third,  much like Lex Luthor to a feeble heiress, Gonzales had papers in his hand for Ashcroft to sign. As we know, Ashcroft refused.According to Comey, he said that he agreed with Comey and Goldsmith and that his opinion was irrelevant anyway because Comey was the acting Attorney General. There are some indications that Card and A.G.A.G. may have threatened Comey et al. and tried to force them from the room; hence the reason that Mueller and some FBI special agents went to the hospital room — to essentially safewatch Ashcroft from them.

Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was “feeble,” “barely articulate” and “stressed” moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday. One of Mueller’s entries in five pages of a daily log pertaining to the dispute also indicated that Ashcroft’s deputy was so concerned about undue pressure by Gonzales and other White House aides for the attorney general to back the wiretapping program that the deputy asked Mueller to bar anyone other than relatives from later entering Ashcroft’s hospital room.     

In any event, the First Butler and A.G.A.G stormed out. Card later placed an  angry call to Comey demanding am 11 PM White House meeeting.   Comey said he would only show up if he could bring a witness. Again, smart thinking.   And he showed up with Ted Olson, the Solicitor General. Olson made his bones so long ago he can’t be bought by the Texas mafia.And here is where things get extremely interesting. Comey never comes out and says explicitly what happened. And Mueller says he was not invited. But it now seems clear what we long guessed — that high level DOJ officials, including himself, Ashcroft, and FBI Director Mueller, were prepared to resign if the White House went ahead and authorized a program that the DOJ had determined was illegal.

Comey’s bluff continued until the next morning with Comey’s resignation letter on the Warlord’s desk. It’s likely Dubya was pissed off at the defiance, Card horrified by his obvious impotence. Dubya called Comey in and worked that seeing the souls in your eye magic. Comey told him to talk to Mueller. Apparently Dubya did and together Comey and Mueller received presidential authorization to make changes DoJ needed to make the program (more) legal. That counts as a blink in this town. (In both ways).   

Precisely what Colin Powell can never do. And exactly what he should have done.  Always blinded by self regard. Ssomething to keep in mind the next time we see a coiffed Talk Show host ritualistically kowtow over a vet with-the-by-now-anodyne – “thank you for your service” — “We’re walking, we’re walking”, etc.

Sometimes, it really is the guys who sit behind a desk with a pointy tie who do have the pluck, guts, and courage to avoid doing the easy thing.  One wonders how many other acts of defiance based on principle and the Constitution occurred during these dark years. General Jello, the Benchpresser and Col. Motormouth — men who talk the talk the strut the We Knew Better Strut — towel snap and boast of years in the field — and they blinked all right.

Just in all the wrong ways.

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