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Between the Lines: Terrible Twosome

In his effort to knock Obama, McCain picks the wrong surrogates.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

You probably heard about that fusillade from the McCain campaign, when his surrogates recently used a press conference to call Obama "na?ve" and "delusional" on terrorism. Let's take a moment to look at the names of those leveling these charges: none other than Randy Scheuneman and Jim Woolsey.

Both were supporters of disgraced charlatan and accused Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi in the leadup to the Iraq war. Woolsey, in addition to being one of Chalabi's top D.C. confidants, was actually his de facto lobbyist. Woolsey was barred from directly representing Chalabi under a 1993 executive order governing incoming appointees of the Clinton administration (he was Clinton's first CIA director). So the firm used a workaround to allow Woolsey not to register directly.

Scheuneman and Woolsey were also big advocates of the most lurid and farfetched claims about Saddam's phantom WMDs—not just the stocks of mustard gas and botulinum toxin that a lot of people in D.C. believed Saddam had, but truly loopy stuff. I attended numerous panels at the American Enterprise Institute in the early part of this decade when Woolsey, to eager gasps and awws, would describe some ingenious concoction of this or that chemical agent that would not only kill you but do so in some deeply lurid and improbable way. One has to be generous and conclude he was just wholly taken in by Chalabi and Co.'s elaborate fibs and deceptions.

Delusional and na?ve? When you check back through Google and see Woolsey repeatedly vouching for Chalabi as a patriot, a truthteller and a "class act," I'd say he's overdrawn in that department. These two simply have too much egg on their faces to be hurling those claims at anyone else.

And that's not all from Jim Woolsey in the "delusional" and "na?ve" department. Don't forget his freelance James Bond mission to England in 2001 to prove Laurie Mylroie's crackpot theory that Saddam wasn't just behind the September 11 attacks but was behind the original attack on the Twin Towers in 1993.

Mylroie's theory was that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 bombing who is now in the federal supermax facility serving a life sentence, was actually a covert Iraqi intelligence agent sent to America by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center. Woolsey and Mylroie's idea was that the Iraqi intelligence agent had stolen the identity of a man named Abdul Basit.

In the weeks just after Sept. 11, Woolsey went to England to check fingerprints on documents Basit had handled in the U.K. back in 1988 and 1989 and compare them with Yousef's to see whether they were the same person. Woolsey didn't go in any official capacity, but Defense Undersecretary Doug Feith gave him the thumbs up. According to subsequent reports, Woolsey led the Brits to believe that he actually was in the country on a secret mission from Washington.

Woolsey has even suggested that he believes Saddam Hussein was behind the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City back in 1994.

Not everyone can get everything right every time. But some people show a propensity to be conned by the most nonsensical ideas and the most transparent and predictable charlatans. Scheuneman and especially Woolsey fall into that category.

Perhaps McCain can make a case that Obama is too na?ve and delusional to confront the great national security threats of the day. But he'd do better not to pick surrogates who can fairly be labeled poster boys for those two derisive adjectives.

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