Jewish World Review August 13, 2004 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5764
A step back from cliff of mediocrity: Goss puts America first
Key Democrats warn that there won't be a cakewalk for Porter Goss to slide into the CIA director's post. Senate confirmation hearings will be tough for the Florida congressman, who headed the House Intelligence Committee for eight years and, as a young man, served a stint with the CIA at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. His faults?
Too political, too much of an insider, too cozy with the White House too, too, too.
The problem is the complaints about Goss are coming from the Me Too Crowd, those Democratic leaders whose own political coziness with their presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry, sets off alarm bells with independent-minded people. Let's face it, President Bush would be demonized by that same crowd if he left this critical intelligence post open for too long in the midst of a war on terror.
Not to make a decision on a successor to former chief George Tenet until after the presidential elections would surely play politics with national security. That would be foolish, particularly when a reorganization of intelligence agencies should be a top priority for the White House and Congress, both political parties and all Americans.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said Bush shouldn't appoint anyone with a ``political background'' to run the CIA. He and other Democrats are miffed that Goss has critiqued Kerry's foreign-policy statements and went so far as to criticize Kerry directly on the House floor in June for voting back in 1997 to reduce the U.S. intelligence budget.
All this bickering will backfire for the Dems. What should matter most to all senators voting on Goss' confirmation is whether he's an agent for change or an enabler for a broken-down system. Evidence suggests Goss seeks the truth and, until this super-charged election year, has worked well in a bipartisan arena.
A good point of reference is Florida's own Sen. Bob Graham, who headed the Intelligence Committee back when the Democrats were in charge of the Senate. As America struggled with the atrocities of the terrorist attacks, Graham praised Goss and they worked closely together to look at the breakdowns that occurred leading up to The Reckoning of Sept. 11.
Most Floridians who know Goss praise his talents. Even Democrat Betty Castor, who's running for the U.S. Senate, applauded Goss' nomination Wednesday, pointing out his bipartisan work with Graham.
Earlier this summer, Goss oversaw a House review of the CIA's seriously mishandled clandestine operations, ripping the agency and concluding the CIA ``continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff.''
Sure, at times Goss has been a GOP soldier for Bush, but he also has shown he puts America's interests ahead of any political fortunes.
His ``insider'' status helps get some buy-in from the CIA troops, but he also has the benefit of decades of distance from the agency after his retirement and eight years of oversight as a congressman. He knows the good and bad of agency business, but, most important, he has the Sept. 11 commission report and other congressional reports backing up a true reorganization of intelligence agencies so that all come under one director of national intelligence.
At 65, Goss won't want to build empires. What senators of all political bents should want is a leader willing to pull the CIA off that cliff of mediocrity to keep America safe.