The presidential campaign focused on homeland security yesterday, with President Bush announcing his plans for implementing the 9/11 Commission report and Senator Kerry heatedly arguing the President was making the country less safe. The Miami Herald reports the President "embraced virtually all key recommendations from the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and urged Congress to quickly approve legislation to put them into effect, although he favored substantially modifying the recommended powers of the new intelligence director." Bush "rejected the commission's call to make the intelligence director a Cabinet-level position inside the White House. He also balked at the commission's recommendation to give the director authority over intelligence budgets at the CIA and other government agencies, a reservation that would limit the director's power." USA Today adds, "Bush's insistence on keeping some distance between the new intelligence czar and the White House is a response to criticism that the CIA shaped prewar intelligence on Iraq to fit administration policy. It also conforms to the administration's long-standing resistance to giving Congress any authority over West Wing staff." ABC reports the President "signed off on the idea of an intelligence czar, even though two senior officials standing beside him, acting CIA chief John McLaughlin and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, have opposed it."
Fox News reports "the 9/11 Commission offered some 41 recommendations. The White House argues that. . .it is now or has already taken action at least in part on 37 of them part of an effort to deflect Kerry campaign criticism that the president is only just now beginning to act." The Washington Post reports this morning that Bush's proposals "drew a generally favorable response on Capitol Hill, although several Democrats said they may not be tough enough." The Detroit Free Press adds that "critics said Bush's proposal would deprive the position of the clout needed to force change at agencies with a long history of mistrust and rivalry."
9/11 Commissioners Call Bush Proposal A Strong First Step.
CNN reports that the 9/11 commissioners "believe President Bush took a strong first step, but they urged Congress to act quickly, especially in the wake of the latest warnings of terrorist attacks." USA Today adds that "the leaders of the 9/11 Commission expressed gratitude for Bush's actions."
In an editorial titled "Rush to Reorganize," the Washington Post writes, "A rush to reform driven by the election calendar could yield an ill-considered system that would take years to fix. Better to go more slowly and get it right especially considering that the changes will be made in the heat of battle, as the latest warnings serve to remind." The Los Angeles Times agrees in part, editorializing this morning, "Congress is filled with fancy bills for reforming intelligence. But it shouldn't rush to create an election-year proposal that dodges hard questions surrounding intelligence fixes. Of course, Bush may be crazy like a fox in issuing such a sketchy plan. He gets credit for action, but nothing real is likely to happen before Nov. 2." The New York Times editorial board, which has been highly critical of Bush, disagrees about the need for deliberate action and writes today that "at a time when Americans need strong leadership and bold action, President Bush offered tired nostrums and bureaucratic half-measures yesterday."