What Was in That Office, Anyway? You Tell Us.

By Al Kamen
Friday, December 21, 2007

That fire in Vice President Cheney's digs in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Wednesday naturally has everyone in Washington speculating about its origin. Arson might seem a bit far-fetched to folks outside the Beltway, but it would not be the first time a small conflagration was planned by a White House official.

We recall that Watergate burglary mastermind G. Gordon Liddy plotted firebombing the Brookings Institution -- "as a diversion," he writes in his memoirs -- to get into the security vault and steal Daniel Ellsberg's Vietnam War papers.

"We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department," Liddy wrote, "and marking it appropriately." The plot included "uniforms for a squad of Cubans" and adequate "training so their performance would be believable."

The firebomb would go off at night "so as not to endanger lives needlessly," Liddy wrote. "The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would 'respond' minutes [later] . . . hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion" as real fire equipment arrived. "The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene."

The decision from higher-ups, Liddy wrote, "was swift. 'No.' Too expensive. The White House wouldn't spring for a fire engine." (Pikers!)

And now we have this curious, possibly successful fire Wednesday. So the obvious question is: What did they try to burn? (We'll let the appropriate authorities find the perps.)

Yes, it's the final In the Loop Contest for 2007. Simply guess what documents or other materials the arsonists were trying to destroy. Could it have been a secret legal opinion from Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington, giving the vice president the inherent authority to set the fire?

Send your entries to hitthevault@washpost.com. Winners will receive an In the Loop T-shirt. You must include your name and telephone number (home, work or cell) to be eligible. And of course, administration officials and Hill folks may opt to enter "on background." Deadline is Jan. 9. Don't delay.

Say Cheese

President Bush signed a major energy bill Wednesday at the Department of Energy. "One of the most serious long-term challenges facing our country is dependence on oil," he said, according to a White House transcript, "especially oil from foreign lands. It's a serious challenge. . . . Because this dependence harms us economically through high and volatile prices at the gas pump; dependence creates pollution and contributes to greenhouse gas admissions [sic]."

Looks as though they'll have to add another Bush picture to the Energy Department's new photo gallery of significant presidential contributions to America's energy policies. That would make, based on a quick count, six photos for Bush, three for Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, two pics each for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Eisenhower and Truman, and one for President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Bill Clinton apparently made no contributions of note.

Merry Xmas From Belgium

GOP mega-contributor Sam Fox, the Swift boat backer who received a controversial recess appointment to be ambassador to Belgium, has arranged for special, one-kilo (2.2-pound) bars of superb, dark Belgian chocolate, stamped with the State Department seal, to be given as Christmas presents.

The Belgians are speculating that President Bush, a renowned chocophile who shopped for chocolates on trips to Belgium in 2001 and 2005, will most surely find one of these under the tree Christmas morning.

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