Top Washington officials are disputing characterizations that Bob Woodward made of them in his new book, "Plan of Attack." But here’s something you can take to the bank — our officials like to take things to the bank.
Here’s what the Washington Post said about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on April 21: "Rumsfeld was closely questioned Tuesday about passages describing a Jan. 11, 2003, meeting in which he was said to have described the war plan to the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, quoting Rumsfeld as saying ‘you can take it to the bank this is going to happen.’"
And here’s a book excerpt the Post ran on the same day: "’Bush said he really meant that it would be all right for Blair to opt out. "You can bank on that.’"
With that much banking going on, anyone who buys Woodward’s book ought to get a free toaster.
The spring’s other book media-celebrated book — Richard Clarke’s — is making more news in an odd way. I just got a copy of the latest politico-thriller by Vince Flynn, "Memorial Day." The press release says, "Flynn tells a timely tale full of action and political intrigue." Timely? How? The press release answers: "In his recent best-selling book, “Against All Enemies,” Richard Clarke recalls a meeting in which the possibility of a nuclear device reaching D.C. via boat up the Chesapeake was suggested and warned against."
The fact that he’s inspiring fiction can’t be encouraging for Richard Clarke. As a new father, I’m hoping Clarke can inspire something I can use, like a pop-up book for babies. Maybe as you turn pages, up pop cardboard cutouts of weapons of mass destruction. A Fisher-Price voice can say, "Hey! Wow! There they are!" And for older kids, Clarke could offer an etiquette book on how to apologize in public.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, or at least in Hollywood, Sony Pictures Entertainment has bought the film rights to Clarke’s book. Who’ll play Clarke? Fortune magazine suggests Bill Murray. Entertainment Weekly offers up Richard Dreyfuss. Personally, I think Kevin Spacey would fit the bill. Surely Bill Clinton would be pleased with that pick.
Speaking of Hollywood liberals, Robert Redford wrote this for the John Kerry campaign: "Today is Earth Day and I am afraid." Why’s the guy who played a fearless cowboy in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" afraid? Because, as he e-mails, "For three decades, we have been fighting to protect the environment and have been proud of the great strides our country has taken. If George Bush is re-elected we can count on …" and so on and so on. You can guess the rest. The mention of Redford and politics has made me laugh ever since the New York Times Magazine asked him, if Dick Cheney were an animal, what would he be? Redford’s response: "Coyote? The group of 'em, a pack of coyotes — tricky, cunning, making sure they take care of themselves but doing it in a wily way, making sure they never get caught." Wile E. Coyote, indeed — just ask Road Runner.
If Robert Redford is afraid these days, might I suggest enlisting security help from Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.)? Hostettler faces a misdemeanor charge of bringing a loaded handgun into the Louisville airport. According to reports, the five-term congressman was detained for about an hour when a Glock 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was found in his briefcase as he prepared to board a US Airways flight to Washington. Keep in mind that Hostettler represents Indiana’s 8th Congressional District, which is famous for tight election battles. That’s one reason it’s called "The Bloody Eighth." The other reason, apparently, is that their congressmen carry Glocks. I wonder what the losers carry. Water pistols, perhaps?
How's the weather?
Finally, while our country’s leaders talk banking, our top journalists seem obsessed with meteorology. The New York Daily News reported this month that New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. talked to shareholders about the Jayson Blair scandal. Sulzberger said that if Blair "told me it was raining outside today, I probably wouldn't bring my umbrella."
Tough words about a plagiarist. Has anyone said anything similar?
Consider what Chuck Lane said on "60 Minutes" last May. Lane was the New Republic executive editor from 1997 to 1999, when scandalous writer Stephen Glass did much of his fabricating. Lane told "60 Minutes": "If it was sunny outside and Steve and I were both standing outside in the sun and Steve came to me and said, 'It's a sunny day,' I would immediately go check with two other people to make sure it was a sunny day."
A little journalistic metaphor borrowing going on? Probably not — just appropriate phrasing for the weird month of April, famous for its certain rain showers. Rain in April — now that’s something you can take that to the bank.
Howard Mortman is a producer for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."