Heck of a job, Chertoff!

The head of Homeland Security says he has a "gut feeling" the U.S. will face a terror attack this summer, but offers no evidence or advice on what to do.

By Joan Walsh

Published July 11, 2007 11:02PM (EDT)

Today's head scratcher is Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff's decision to tell the Chicago Tribune that he has a "gut feeling" we're in for a terror attack sometime this summer.

Do we pay this guy to share his "gut feelings" about a terror attack? Is that how they assess terror threats in Chertoff's shop? I thought they might have intelligence analysts and operatives around the world and experts working to assess what the contradictory information means and whether our country is safe. David Heyman, Homeland Security program director at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, termed Chertoff's remark "very odd."

Even odder is the fact that the White House quickly moved to say there was "no credible evidence" of a possible summer attack, and spokesman Tony Fratto added that Chertoff apparently hadn't shared his "gut feeling" about a looming terror attack with the president. (Maybe Chertoff was afraid Bush would make him cry.)

Liberals can get a little paranoid sometimes, pointing to examples of how, when the Bush administration gets in trouble -- you've got the Libby scandal, you've got Harriet Miers refusing to testify, more Republicans are ditching the president on Iraq -- they yell "Terror alert!" But I think it's even worse than that. A conspiracy to distract us from domestic political news would require some competence and communication and planning, and they don't seem capable of that. Remember Chertoff's stellar performance during Hurricane Katrina, and how he blamed the media on "Meet the Press"? It's unbelievable he still has a job.

Then, to confuse us more, at the end of the day someone leaked a report that's part of the upcoming National Intelligence Estimate saying that al-Qaida has regained the level of capacity it had before 9/11. How are we supposed to square that with Chertoff's "gut feelings" and the White House's insistence there's no evidence of a summer attack? These are dangerous times, but I think Bush and Chertoff are making us less safe, not more so. I have a gut feeling we'd be safer without Chertoff, and another gut feeling that Bush thinks he's doing a "heck of a job" and will keep him on.

I'll be discussing all of this tonight on MSNBC's "Hardball" (7 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. PDT) and later on "Live With Dan Abrams" (9/6).

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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