Goss Nomination Seen As Part Of Bush Strategy To Regain Edge On Terror Issue
President Bush nominated Florida Rep. Porter Goss to head the CIA. This morning's newspapers are interpreting the move as an attempt by the President to regain the edge on the terrorism issue, which some polls show was eroded by Sen. Kerry's performance at the Democratic National Convention. The Washington Post reports that Bush is trying "to reassert himself on an issue where he has been losing ground but did so at the cost of inviting Democratic accusations he is politicizing intelligence." However, "Administration officials said the White House calculated that the president could not lose: Democrats would either cave when faced with a fight, or Bush could accuse them of obstructing CIA stability at a time when the nation is under threat of a terrorist attack. . . . A Republican political operative, who requested anonymity because of participation in the party's regular conference calls, said the president turned back to Goss because 'poll data showed Kerry had closed the gap with Bush on handling of terrorism and was slightly ahead as fit to be commander in chief.' . . . Officials in both parties said Bush's calculations about the outcome of the confirmation process are likely to prove correct." Meanwhile, the New York Times writes that Democrats and Republicans "alike wondered aloud on Tuesday whether Mr. Bush might be willfully starting a partisan nomination fight, less than three months before Election Day, that would allow him to argue that Democrats were blocking an important national security appointment." CNN's Inside Politics, in its analysis of the politics behind the nomination, reports Republicans "feel that the President stole some of the Democrats' thunder today." They "now feel that. . .with one fell swoop, the president went into the Rose Garden" and "seized the initiative" while "putting Democrats on the defensive a little bit."
Nomination Given Good Odds In US Senate.
Goss' nomination is expected trigger a partisan battle in the US Senate, but most analysts expect the Florida congressman to win confirmation. CNN's Inside Politics reported that Republicans "think Porter Goss's nomination is in pretty good shape in the Senate already. The Los Angeles Times reports Goss "almost certainly will win approval by the Senate as CIA director," but "reaction to his nomination on Capitol Hill suggested Tuesday that the confirmation process could be like a visit to the dentist quick but painful." The Baltimore Sun says there are "few signs that Democrats would mount a strong effort to block the appointment," while the Wall Street Journal believes that "with key Republicans, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, and even a few Democrats backing him, Mr. Goss has a good chance of being confirmed." According to USA Today, Sen. Bob Graham "said Tuesday that he will lobby Democratic colleagues for Goss' confirmation. Graham, one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration's foreign and intelligence policy, said his friend has 'the independence to tell the president what he doesn't want to hear.'"
Kerry Camp Ties CIA Nomination To Broader Intelligence Reforms.
The New York Times reports "Democrats close to Mr. Kerry" said in interviews that "they were in something of a bind, because they did not want to appear to be blocking the nomination. 'The trick,' one said, 'is not to get sucked into an argument over Porter, but to keep the public debate on reform.'" CNN reported that in reacting to the Goss nomination, the "Kerry campaign and Senator Kerry, in a written statement," are "being very careful." In a statement, Kerry "says there should be expeditious hearing on the Goss confirmation. But he says, 'But the most important position is one that hasn't been created yet: national intelligence director with real control of budgets and personnel. We need to move urgently on this and other recommendations by the 9/11 Commission to make America safer. I hope that Congressman Goss shares this view and will now support the creation of this important post.'"
Goss Criticism Of Kerry Briefly Taken Off Bush-Cheney Website.
The Washington Post reports the Bush-Cheney campaign "briefly stripped from its Web site yesterday an attack on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) by Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), several hours after President Bush nominated Goss as the director of central intelligence." The campaign "later restored the statement and said removing it was a mistake. . . . The four-paragraph statement by Goss says that Kerry's June 1 speech on national security 'amounted to little more than political "me-tooism." 'He laid out some old goals that everyone agrees to without offering concrete proposals to achieve them,' Goss said. 'He also neglected the president's historic achievements in this area.'"
Editorials In Major Papers Critical Of Goss Pick.
The Los Angeles Times this morning was highly critical of Goss' selection calling him a "softy" and a" patsy for the CIA." Adds the Times, "If Bush had more self-confidence, he would have selected someone who would start reforming the CIA, which would mean on occasion challenging the president. A number of candidates spring to mind. Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, a Republican who heads the 9/11 commission, certainly grasps what needs doing and would move aggressively to improve the CIA's work. So would Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) or Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), both with distinguished and long service on Senate foreign affairs and intelligence matters." The New York Times says, "Even under normal circumstances, it's questionable whether a president should try to install a new C.I.A. chief a few months before an election. Mr. Bush seems to be deliberately inviting a confirmation battle by turning to Representative Porter Goss of Florida, a partisan Republican and a man criticized for his close, protective relationship with that intelligence agency where he once worked. . . . There is no reason the C.I.A.'s current acting director, John McLaughlin, cannot be kept in his job while the new structure is being designed. And no reason the appointment of a permanent successor cannot be delayed, at least until after the next presidential term begins in January." The Washington Post thinks Goss "is undoubtedly well qualified to head the CIA." But "it is fair to ask whether nominating a figure of partisan controversy in an election year to a post in flux by an administration that may well cease to exist is the best way to ensure continuity in the intelligence community's crucial work and bipartisanship in the larger debate over reform."