Bush And The Goss Trap
Pat Roberts then:
“Porter Goss? That trial balloon went up, and Sen. [John] Rockefeller [D-W.Va.] got out his BB gun and popped it out of the sky…We do not want a partisan fight right before the election…. Apparently, if you have the vice chairman firmly opposed to the nominee, I don’t think that’s a very good starting point.”
--July 14, 2004
Pat Roberts now:
"I don't think we can afford to wait…We have a known quantity. He has experience. He has expertise. I've known him for 16 years. I think he is a good pick."August 11, 2004
My, my, what a month makes, eh Pat?
Lis Bumiller runs a good piece in the Times this morning that shows several things:
First, when it all comes down to it, all GOP Senators are really toadies for the White House in an election year. Despite Roberts’ concerns of a month ago, he now suddenly wants Goss confirmed. Furthermore, GOP moderates like Olympia Snowe want him confirmed as well.
Second, Rove has found a way to use the 9/11 Commission report to be this year’s Department of Homeland Security political hammer against the Democrats. As Chuck Schumer of New York correctly observes, Democrats should not get drawn into a delaying tactic like they did in 2002 and be bludgeoned for allegedly being unconcerned about intelligence and national security by delaying or filibustering the Goss pick. In addition, the White House has created this environment of continual terror warnings and fear leading up to the elections, and Bush will use this for a variety of purposes. And the Post’s Mike Allen and Walter Pincus confirm that Bush made the pick for purely political reasons because Kerry had caught up to Bush in voters’ minds on the issue of national security, and Bush was more concerned with looking like he “was moving ahead” than with getting into a long debate about reform. And Slate’s Fred Kaplan notes that Goss will be little more than a political hack for Bush at the Agency, who cares very little about the curtailing of civil liberties in the alleged war on terror.
What should Democrats do? Despite the well-reasoned but politically tone-deaf advice from the New York Time editorial page, wherein they call for the confirmation to be put off until after the election, the Democrats should ask Goss all the tough questions about his past statements in the confirmation hearings, and get that on the record. What does Goss think about the 9/11 Commission recommendations? Does he think the White House misused the pre-war Iraq intelligence? Does he think the Agency should take the full blame for that? Does he want to retract some of the things he has said about Kerry? In light of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent whitewashed report on the Iraqi WMD intelligence, what assurances does Congress have that Goss won't politicize intelligence to serve Bush’s agenda? Would he knowingly shade, distort, or withhold intelligence from Congress to serve the President’s agenda? Why has reform legislation nearly identical to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations been languishing in his committee for months?
Once those questions are answered by Goss, with John Edwards getting his chance to ask several of them in committee, and these responses are on the record, then the Democrats should allow the vote, and force Bush to see if he can get it moved to the Senate floor. Once there, the Democrats should make their arguments on the basis of the 9/11 Commission recommendations and the need to implement those, as well as their dismay that in light of that report and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, Bush went ahead and politicized this pick anyway. Put this on the record and make all Republicans vote to support their president. If Bush gets his way, so be it. But don’t delay it. Bush will be accountable, and the Democrats can explain their position on principle and by pointing to the Senate and Commission’s own report.
Kerry for his part can simply say he will not support Goss for the pick, cast his vote when it comes up, and hold Bush accountable. When reporters ask him about any electoral angle that Bush may be seeking by naming a politician from a key swing state for the supposedly nonpolitical job, Kerry’s response should be that Goss shouldn’t unpack into his new office, because when he gets into office in January 2005, he’ll be dumping Goss and replacing him with….Bob Graham.
Again, as I said last night, there should be no roll-over on this pick. The Democrats should not filibuster this, or delay it, but should dig in, pose tough questions and make Goss answer them. They should focus on his past statements and whether or not he supports the 9/11 Commission recommendations and the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Iraq WMDs that it was all the CIA's fault. They should challenge him and the GOP on this pick, have the votes take place, vote against him, and see if Bush can get him through. If Bush can, so be it. Make Bush work for it and see if he can sell it and his apparent disagreements with the 9/11 Commission recommendations. If Rove wants to use this for a replay of 2002 by using the "fear" environment and the commission report as a hammer, then the Dems should oblige and make Bush and Goss commit to what is in that report as well. For once, turn their rush to politicize this against them.