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IRAQ DISTRACT! Worthless “experts” debate the sniper—and Iraq quickly gets a back seat:


CONDIT II: Does the Bush Admin have a plan for life-after-war in Iraq? In today’s Post, Gore aide Leon Fuerth offers a list of potential problems. With that column as our cue, here are a pair of obvious questions which ought to be driving our current news chat. For the record, David Von Drehle included these queries in his recent, well-composed list (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/02):

  1. Is there some sort some of inspection regime that would successfully regulate Iraqi weapon development?
  2. How would the U.S. deal with the aftermath of a war in Iraq?
The press should be limning those questions daily. Instead, the Washington sniper has hijacked our discourse, and our public discussions are back in the hands of the collection of losers, flunkies and know-nothings who led us up to September 11 with their mindless Gary Condit debate.

The human mind is very weak. If you doubt that, watch these “experts” kill endless time as they worthlessly muse on these killings.

HUMAN, ALL TOO SUBHUMAN: How worthless can “expert” opinion be? In this morning’s Post, Priest and Masters review the pensees of our “counter-terrorism experts.” At one point, the savants are said to say this:

PRIEST AND MASTERS: [T]he most concrete similarity between the sniper operation and those of al Qaeda, experts said, appears to be the meticulous planning associated with the Washington area killings. To be able to escape the dragnet that has descended after each of the more recent shootings, the gunman has probably planned well ahead of time his shooting location, escape route and way to hide.

Likewise, to be successful, he had to understand the capabilities and limitations of law enforcement tactics and equipment. Documents seized from training camps in Afghanistan and from the al Qaeda safe houses around the world indicate that individuals learned military techniques and doctrine and were familiar with their enemies’ tactics.

The sniper “had to understand the capabilities and limitations of law enforcement?” Really! In the case of his latest killing, how did he showcase this vast understanding? Simple—he got in his car and he drove away! This fiendish technique would occur to anyone. But according to Priest and Masters, this is cited—by “counter-terrorism experts”—as a sign that the savvy Washington sniper just may be linked to al Qaeda!

Driving away would occur to anyone. But in the New York Times, Clines second-hand quotes an FBI agent who is stunned by the brilliant scheme too:

CLINES: One difference this time was the added touch of cruelty of shooting Ms. Franklin as her husband was a step away, unseeing and powerless to help…

“There she was, the poor woman, her body right there,” said Zuhair Massoud, a 50-year-old businessman who emerged from the Home Depot a minute or two after Ms. Franklin was cut down.

“When the F.B.I. agent questioned me later,” Mr. Massoud recounted, “He told me: ‘This guy’s gone already. He’s very good. He knows what he’s doing.’”

Did a gumshoe really say this? We don’t have a clue. But such drivel endlessly clogs our discourse. Indeed, Maureen Dowd was also stunned by the shooter’s sagacity. As usual, Dowd makes it sound like police authorities have been complete, absolute dopes:
DOWD: The sniper has outsmarted the police. It takes just one minute for him to pull the trigger, once, and then hit the exit ramp and vanish. On Monday night it took the police 20 minutes to set up roadblocks on all the main highways in Virginia, causing gridlock for hours. But by then the sniper was probably already at home, savoring it all on TV.
The police can’t be everywhere at all times? To Dowd, that means they’ve been “outsmarted.”

Stop us before we cut-and-paste more. Sadly, Bo Dietl and Clint Van Zandt are back at the center of our discourse, offering hours of vacuous comment. Many of these worthless pundits disgraced themselves in the Condit Caper. Now they waste our time again with their drivel. And Iraq? Thank goodness! Forgotten.

I’D LIKE A SECOND SPECULATION: Our “experts” rarely show any sign of knowing what they’re talking about. And they rarely seem to know they don’t know. As a result, if you don’t like one “expert” speculation, there’s always another speculation to choose from. In today’s Times, Jeffrey Gettleman spoke to three members of cable’s crystal-ball generation:

GETTLEMAN: From the same distressingly meager set of clues, there are three radically different portraits, underscoring the reality that no one seemed really to know who the gunman is.

First, there is the aggressive hunter. “I don’t see this guy as wimpy,” said Candice DeLong, a former profiler for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who worked on the Unabomber case. “I see him all into this stealth ninja stuff, walking around with a swagger, used to bossing people around, maybe a fireman or construction worker. He’s out to prove to somebody—and they know who they are—that he’s the best damn sniper in the world.”

And he is getting bolder, Mrs. DeLong said. On Monday night, a woman standing right next to her husband was shot dead outside a bustling Home Depot. It was the ninth killing.

Richard Dietl, a retired New York City police detective and security executive, espouses a different profile: adolescents who have joined together, Columbine-style, to wreak havoc on the world.

“A game, that’s what this is, a sick game,” Mr. Dietl said today. “There’s probably two skinny kids out there who have made a pact with each other. They’re shooting bodies and getting away, shooting bodies and getting away. They don’t want to confront anybody face to face.”

Finally, there is the most familiar type: the icy loner. James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said most serial killers are lonely white men in their 30’s.

“It sounds cliché, but it’s usually true,” Dr. Fox said. “And in this case, we’re seeing typical commando behavior. It’s probably some introverted guy living by himself, working by himself, living out the ultimate fantasy. This is his battle, his war, and he’s the colonel now.”…

Many experts think there is only one gunman, not two, despite some witness reports that the gunman may have had a driver.

“The card said ‘I am God,’ not ‘We are God,’ “Dr. Fox said, referring to one of the few concrete clues in the case, a tarot card left in the woods near one of the shootings.

Try to believe that Fox really said that—and that it stamps him as an “expert” in the hall or mirrors now run on TV. But congrats to Gettleman for suggesting what few will say—these people rarely seem to know what they’re talking about. Later in his article, Gettleman quoted forensic psychologist Reid Molly. “Ultimately, it’s tips that solve these crimes, not profilers,” Molloy says. After watching the Dietls and the Van Zandts ramble on, do you find that even slightly surprising?

THE ONE THING THEY WON’T WASTE OUR TIME ON: Dowd always knows where to take it. In today’s piece, she instantly starts to mind-read pols’ motives. And it’s immutable Pundit Law—those motives must always be naughty:

DOWD: Some freak has been driving around the Washington suburbs in a van popping people for two weeks and we still don’t know much of anything.

We know that Virginia’s governor, Mark Warner, is bucking to be the Rudy Giuliani of the crisis; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is trying to capitalize on her personal history with tragic gun killings to save her limp gubernatorial bid; Democrats in Congress tried to capitalize by rushing to pass a small-bore gun control measure that was going to pass anyway; President Bush and the G.O.P. are still taking dictation from the N.R.A.

It’s the law with this vacuous pundit; Warner, Townsend, Dems and Bush must all be said to have bad motives. And what are the merits of their proposals? Dowd, safe at home, won’t disclose.