Spam, McDonald's, Israel, AARP, Cheney, plutonium, and more.... (It remains to be seen, however, whether the age gap is clearly to McCain's disadvantage.) --Michael Crowley

In April 2005, when President Bush decided to transfer Zalmay Khalilzad from Afghanistan to Iraq, Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had been serving as U.S. ambassador to his native country, and his relationship with Karzai--which dated back to the late 1990s, when both men advised the U.S. oil company Unocal on the construction of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline--was strong.


. . . comes via CIA-agent-turned-blogger Larry Johnson, who's flacking Valerie Plame's new book and reveals this tidbit from it: In 2004 the FBI received intelligence that Al Qaeda hit teams were enroute to the United States to kill *** Cheney, Karl Rove, and Valerie Plame. The FBI informed Valerie of this threat.


Near the end of Stephen Hayes's book, he talks to President Bush about the decision to fire Donald Rumsfeld: The conversation between Bush and Cheney had been intense. "He listened very carefully and--he listened very carefully," says Bush. "He thinks Donald Rumsfeld was a great secretary of defense, as do I. And I think in this case, he really felt like his friend ought to stay the years if that's what Donald Rumsfeld felt like doing himself. As with the subject of gay marriage, Bush's nervousness is clearly evident.


Why So Secretive?

The Washington Post finally manages to figure out who met with Cheney's secret energy task force in 2001: One of the first visitors, on Feb. 14, was James J. Rouse, then vice president of Exxon Mobil and a major donor to the Bush inauguration; a week later, longtime Bush supporter Kenneth L. Lay, then head of Enron Corp., came by for the first of two meetings.


During an interview, Hayes asks Cheney why he accepted the job of vice president. Cheney responds: "If the president of the United States asks you to do something, you really have an obligation to try to do it, if you can." Of course Bush wasn't actually president when he asked Cheney to fill the #2 spot, and one wishes, therefore, that Hayes would have probed a bit further. On a separate note, while Cheney was the Secretary of Defense for Bush 41, his closest ally on defense matters was none other than Jack Murtha.


I don't want to step on Isaac's toes, but I think Andrew is being a little unfair to Stephen Hayes when he highlights the following paragraph from The Weekly Standard excerpt of Hayes's new Cheney book: Cheney's office is quite spacious--longer than it is wide, with high ceilings--particularly for the cramped West Wing. His large, mahogany desk sits opposite the entrance to the room, beneath a map depicting the Battle of Chickamauga, one of several Civil War battles that his great-great grandfather survived.


So now David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, is trying to back away from the claim that the vice-president is somehow outside the executive branch. He does, however, say that the order governing the handling of classified material was only supposed to apply to executive-branch "agencies" and not the vice-president. Of course, he doesn't point to any specific language here, but hey, who needs specific language? If anyone wants to get deep in the weeds, Jack Balkin has a lengthy explanation of why Addington's argument is preposterous.


Flipping The Bird

Regarding Mike's item below, I think Democrats have an obligation to give Cheney's new bird-hunting strategy a chance. Since the new tactics, facial shootings are down 100%. Continuing to criticize Cheney will only embolden the birds. --Jonathan Chait

The Case for Fear

Overblown: How Politicians And The Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, And Why We Believe Them By John Mueller (Free Press, 259 pp., $25) What's Wrong With Terrorism? By Robert E. Goodin (Polity, 246 pp., $59.95) In 1995, the political scientist Aaron Wildavsky published a provocative book under the title But Is It True? Wildavsky's central claim was that many environmental risks are ridiculously exaggerated. In his view, governments often devote substantial resources to trivial or even nonexistent problems.