Media Matters

The Big Orange

We sure do scare easily, no?

By 8.4.04

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"I just came across some of Grant's plans for Vicksburg. Think we should call 'em?"

Uncle Pundit's ironic sense sometimes gets more mordant than needed, and I told him just because the al Qaeda e-mails were a little old there's no reason to discount them. So we didn't learn until two days after the Big Orange Alert that the information was gleaned from material that pre-dated 9/11. Does that mean we should ignore it?

"No. But maybe before we break into Sunday programming, we should know we are dealing with vintage terror planning. What happened in Washington, D C, is an example of going off half-cocked."

You mean the Capitol Police?

"Yeah. The Capitol grounds weren't even mentioned in the Big Orange alert. It was only the IMF building and the World Bank in Washington. But the Capitol cops ad-libbed their own alert, put up 14 check-points, closed some streets down entirely around the Capitol. You see Eleanor Holmes Norton?"

Well, yes. She was a little angry over that. I saw her say the "arrogance of it is mind-boggling."

"And in a town where mind-boggling is an art form. But Eleanor has no feel for the just-right phrase when the shirt hits the fan. We gotta leave that to the New York Senator-guy, Chuck Schumer."

He had something to say?

"Sure. When Bloomberg and company were interrupting the Sunday golf game with their press conferences and calming folks about truck bombs coming down the street, Schumer says he is sure 'New Yorkers will rise to the occasion.'"

You couldn't have heard that right.

"Go back and play the Sunday tape. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we may be getting gamed and nobody knows it."

Ridge...

"Not Tom. The al Qaeda guys. What's to keep 'em from flooding the back-channels with disinformation, tossing out little playlets: 'we'll bomb this or that, here are the plans for the Grange Hall in Osnabrock, North Dakota, the men's room at Old Faithful, the Rest Stop on Route 66. And oh sure, the Sears Tower too. And here's the hourly traffic on Sundays on the Golden Gate Bridge, and--"

Enough! Don't you think our intelligence guys would know they're being conned?

"How could they be sure? Who up there decides this is a con, and that one's for real, and that one over there is a maybe...? Like the guy says, we don't know for sure, but we thought you ought to know. And we're making some of you Orange, and some of you stay Yellow and before you know it it appears in the real estate ads: 'cozy three-bedroom apartment in elevated yellow area of Wappinger's Falls.'"

Days like this make me almost sorry Uncle Pundit came to visit, when was it, twelve years ago.

"And you thought that red and blue Bush-Gore election map was something."

But, and you know this is so. There has got to be some resolution of these things. A solution.

"Not necessarily. You believe in a hereafter, don't you? Or try to?"

Well.

"There is only one final resolution to that one, now isn't there?

"But listen. I have tied half a dozen blue dunns, with a special pheasant's tail, and I am taking you with me this weekend to that special spot I know. You will swear to secrecy before we even put our rods in the car. It'll be some weekend. Mind-boggling."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.