If you talk the 9/11 talk, you better know the 9/11 facts

The Baltimore Sun

With Rudy Giuliani at his side the other day in Denver, former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele declared that Barack Obama lacked the homeland security cred to be president. While he was at it, Steele showed off his own loose grasp of the subject.

"We need a president who's prepared to deal with enemies both abroad and at home," Steele said at a news conference meant to rain a little on the Dems' parade. "And I take that last point very seriously because as lieutenant governor of my state, the first briefing I got two days after I assumed the office with the governor was a homeland security briefing in which I found out at that time that part of the al-Qaida operation that attacked the twin towers in New York, flew into that field in Pennsylvania and flew into the Pentagon a short distance from my home also lived in my state, in the town of Laurel, for up to two years before the attacks."

Two years?

News accounts immediately after the attacks and the official Sept. 11 commission report issued years later all told a different story: that some of the terrorists stayed in Laurel right before Sept. 11, but only for a short time. Does Steele know something we don't?

"He is completely wrong," said Dietrich Snell, who served as senior counsel to the Sept. 11 commission (officially, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States). "He's totally wrong."

Some of the terrorists - the group that hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 after takeoff from Dulles - did pass through Laurel, lodging at the Pin-Del and Valencia motels and working out at a local gym. But that should hardly have been a revelation to Steele by the time he took office in January 2003. The terrorists' Laurel connection was widely reported within days of the attacks.

And their stay was not anywhere near two years, according to the commission's report, which first mentions Laurel under the heading, "The Final Days." It says they gathered in Laurel in the first week of September and stayed there until the night before the attacks, when they moved to a hotel in Herndon, Va., near Dulles.

"More like two weeks," said Snell, a former New York deputy attorney general now in private practice in New York. "It's a very complicated path that they all had, but a lot of them didn't even arrive in the country until the spring and summer of 2001. And they didn't go straight to Laurel, any of them."

I tried reaching Steele through spokeswoman Belinda Cook, who was out in Denver with him. No luck. Probably too busy sharing his homeland security insights.

Men of substance

Who's audacious now? Former LG Steele slammed Obama as an empty suit at the same news conference, still there for the viewing at www.notready08.com.

With the words "A Mile High, An Inch Deep" behind him, Steele declared:

"Barack Obama's going to have to step up with more than a fancy tongue, smart, snappy words, a nice suit - as Joe Biden would go on to describe him - and come to the table with some substance."

Yes, as Steele himself can attest, Obama also will need a love for puppies.

Music to soothe the savage breast stroke

We already knew Michael Phelps' favorite musician is rapper Lil' Wayne. Now we know the specific Lil' Wayne song that propelled the swimmer to Olympic greatness.

"I had his song 'I'm Me' just about every time I walked out to the blocks," Phelps revealed yesterday on the Today Show.

All the parents out there hoping to become the next Debbie Phelps? Just crank this up on the family sound system:

"The hottest ... under the sun ... (who dat)

Ain't nobody [BLEEPin'] with me man Ay ay ay ay

U already know that pimpin' (ya)

Cash Money Records, where dreams come true

[BLEEP] up my dreams, somebody gon die 2nite

(Ay ay ay ay) U already know that pimpin'

Ay its Cash Money Records man, a lawless game."

Hmmm. The same guy who tears up at the national anthem draws his chief inspiration from that (which comes courtesy of lyrics.net)?

Perilous fight and pimpin'? Gallantly streaming and BLEEPin'? Phelps is a man of broad musical tastes. He can afford to be. As the song says, "I'm a mutha [BLEEPin'] Cash Money Millionaire, yeah."

Connect the dots

Enough politics already. Three Democratic governors had the good sense to do something else the other night in Denver. Martin O'Malley, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer jammed with the band at the Maryland delegation's reception. O'Malley sang and played guitar. Kaine was on harmonica. Schweitzer took up the tambourine. Their concert lasted about 15 minutes. . ... Lobbyist and former Del. Don Murphy, chairman of the Maryland delegation to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn, offers this observation on the Dems' shindig: "Has anyone made mention that the term 'mile high' refers to the Maryland Delegation's seats which begin on row 15 above the floor? Is that what you get when you deliver 60+% for the nominee?"

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