LOS ANGELES – Hysterical reports of dirty bombers in Chicago and terrorists boating to Los Angeles left me a little shaken Monday night, so I turned on the television for a diversion.
James Bond. Wonderful. I hadn't seen "Goldfinger" in years.
Auric Goldfinger, the rich and mysterious fat dude with the badly dubbed voice, likes to hang around South Florida and pay women to cavort around wearing close to nothing. He is awkward and suspicious. Nobody bothers him.
The British spies are watching Goldfinger, but they can't quite figure out his scam.
Then he flies to the United States without hassle and sets up shop in Kentucky. The authorities don't seem to notice as he convenes every crime boss in the country.
His plan? Use small planes to spray nerve gas on the soldiers protecting Fort Knox. Then detonate a dirty bomb inside the gold depository, irradiating the precious metal for decades. With the U.S. gold supply untouchable, his own supply will command a huge profit on the international market.
Because we don't have any James Bond guys on our side. We're shaken, not stirred.
Goldfinger's plan failed because a tenacious spy never let up. Bond didn't check with the office. Bond engaged in every kind of insensitive behavior. Instead of waiting for his boss to approve each step of the investigation, he just latched himself onto the Goldfinger machine like a common barnacle and stopped the madness.
James Bond wouldn't get through the first interview round today — certainly not with the U.S. intelligence agencies. He drinks, smokes, gambles and wantonly disobeys dumb orders. He repeatedly engages in unsafe sex with unsafe women. Yet he beats the super-villains. Why? To use the most foul middle-management term of our era, he thinks outside the box.
His goal isn't to please his superiors or climb the bureaucratic ladder. His goal is to stop the horrible attack and then go home, quietly, and rest up for the next horror. No interviews, no congressional testimony, no leaks.
If James Bond had cracked the Zacarias Moussaoui case, the Sept. 11 attacks wouldn't have happened. If Bond screwed up, he wouldn't run to C-SPAN. He was the perfect Cold War version of Raymond Chandler's perfect hero: "He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job .... He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."
It's no wonder that Bond picked up Chandler's latest thriller in the 1959 novel version of "Goldfinger."
We need some James Bond types. This Homeland Security charade is so plainly silly that it can't even be mentioned without a laugh. The paper-pusher wars between the CIA and FBI are legend. The ignore-reality stance of the FBI is so entrenched in the American imagination that the "X-Files" was almost plausible.
John F. Kennedy loved the James Bond books. Winston Churchill could've been Bond's boss, "M." But Kennedy and Churchill were flawed humans with human vices. They also knew the enemy.
Are flawed humans allowed anymore? Does Washington know the enemy today? Not enough. If this Homeland Security Department thing was going to matter, it would enlist every smart weirdo in the country who knew how to track a creep, order a martini and fire a gun.
Before you dismiss this as just another dumb column, I invite you to read infamous leftist writer Alexander Cockburn's essay on Ian Fleming and James Bond. According to Cockburn, Fleming is responsible for the U.S. intelligence service during the Cold War. And Fleming's goofy fantasies about terrorist plots convinced the evil Reagan administration to ... ah, let Cockburn tell it:
They watched "Thunderball" and conceived that terrorists, probably Libyans, would steal atomic bombs and attack American cities. They worried about germ warfare when they saw "On Her Majesty's Secret Service ...."
Bloody daft, that Fleming.
Ken Layne types from a shack behind his Los Angeles home. The author of trashy thrillers such as Dot.Con and the upcoming Space Critters, he has written and edited for a variety of news outfits including Information Week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, UPI and Mother Jones. Since the Enron-like collapse of his Web paper, Tabloid.net, in 1999, he has been posting commentary to KenLayne.com.