Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the man most responsible for waging America’s war on terrorism, complains to staff that he gets very little time with the President and gets most of his marching orders lately from Ashcroft. Some on Ridge’s staff gripe privately that Ashcroft is “Bush’s Himmler,” a reference to Heinrich Himmler, Chief of the SS (the German Police) under Adolph Hitler.
“Too many make the mistake of thinking Dick Cheney is the real power in the Bush administration,” says one senior Homeland Security aide. “They’re wrong. It’s Ashcroft and that is reason enough for all of us to be very, very afraid.”
While Vice President Cheney remains part of Bush’s tight, inner circle, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has fallen out of favor and tells his staff that “no matter what happens in November, I’m outta here.”
White House aides say the West Wing has been overtaken by a “siege mentality,” where phone calls and emails are monitored and everyone is under suspicion for “disloyalty to the crown.”