by Ted on August 12, 2004

WASHINGTON- In an unusual joint press conference, President Bush and Senator John Kerry announced the nomination of Rep. Christopher Cox of California to serve as director of the CIA. The joint nomination virtually ensures Cox’s confirmation, at a time when Administration officials have warned the public to expect attacks.

“In this time of uncertainty, we need stability in our intelligence agencies. I promised to reform our intelligence capabilities, and I intend to keep that promise,” said President Bush. “That’s why I’ve been in communication with Senator Kerry on this nomination…”

If you don’t like Christopher Cox, pick someone else. I wouldn’t dream of any President extending this kind of consideration for most appointments, but the CIA director is an unusual case. Porter Goss is a poison pill in a position where we can least afford one. There seems to be some agreement that Porter Goss’s open partisanship makes it almost inevitable that he will be dismissed in the event of a Kerry victory. That’s not good.

Maybe Goss will turn out to be an excellent head of the CIA. But his nomination has more than a whiff of positioning, and he’ll have no traction until November (if Bush wins) or January (if Kerry wins). If we’re sincerely expecting attacks, and we’re sincere about wanting to reform our intelligence, then we’ve got to have CIA leadership that can get to work, regardless of which way the votes fall.

Maybe I’m daydreaming, but it seems like we’ve missed a great opportunity for statesmanship. You may say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.



Ross Silverman 08.12.04 at 5:16 pm

Imagining Bush actually acting as a uniter, not a divider?
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on


Justin 08.12.04 at 6:01 pm

Statesmanship is a tie in a zero sum game. It benefits neither party, and thus is not useful as strategic action. Incumbency is protected well enough that there is no need for mutual “feel good” moves to protect both parties’ incumbents when major points can be scored…and the pro-incumbency benefit to Bush would be almost nil.


kenrufo 08.12.04 at 6:08 pm

Damn straight. I’m always amazed by Bush’s handlers on issues like this, where a chance at real statesmanship presents itself and yet they cannot trust either in its outcomes or in its popular reception. Personally, if I was Bush, I would have publically asked Biden to do it, which would be a win-win, he either takes it and the Dems lose one of their best voices in service of the administration, all while the Bushies look like they recognize that the lessons of 9-11 mean being non-partisan (unlike Kerry, they would then say), or Biden says no, and then the Bushies could claim the Dems are playing politics with the country’s future. But neither scenarios, your hopeful dream or my politik nightmare, come to pass, because at the end of the day, Bush is a partisan hack not even interested in the appearance of solidarity. This is one of those things that happens with enough regularity that it’s clearly not a sign of stupidity or lack of thought, but rather the outgrowth of a very peculiar and ideological predisposition.


kenrufo 08.12.04 at 6:38 pm

Justin, I disagree. Incumbency may be structurally protected for a number of reasons, especially agenda setting, but different incumbents receive different levels of help from their establishment status. Here, and given the contingencies of 9-11, I think statesmanship would have provided a pretty potent boon to the Bush administration at a time when polls increasingly show them needing one.


Barry 08.12.04 at 8:03 pm

Expecially since, if Bush gained even a few % from not pushing 9/11 and the Iraq war for all possible political gain, that could make the difference in this election.


hansomdevil 08.12.04 at 9:32 pm

Good god you scared me. I thought you were quoting some source. THE Chris “I hung out with the taliban” Cox? MY representative Chris Cox? Director of the CIA? JEEEEEBUS!


EH 08.13.04 at 5:09 am

The nomination of Goss represents two key elements of the Bush ethos – loyalty over competence, and political gain over national security. Goss is an unqualified party loyalist. The Democrats can either fight Bush and be accused of helping Al Qaeda, or they can let him through, thereby helping Al Qaeda.

There seems to be some agreement that Porter Goss’s open partisanship makes it almost inevitable that he will be dismissed in the event of a Kerry victory.

I don’t know about this. Would he have the courage to do it?


Martin Wisse 08.13.04 at 6:41 am

Dreamer? No. Incredibly naive? Yes.

Bush doesn’t care about statemanship, America or who would make the best CIA director. Bush only cares about Bush.

Nor should the Democratic Party, at this point in time, after the numerous failures and betrayals on Bush’s part, trust anything he does.

It doesn’t matter whether Porter Gross is incredibly partisan or not; with Bush’s track record, any candidate he is going to put forward should be voted against, because they’re going to be obviously incompetent, corrupt, or both.


bad Jim 08.13.04 at 7:50 am

I’m sort of with hansomdevil. Cox is a jerk. Not quite as wretched as some other Orange County congressmen, like Dana Rorabacher and Bob Dornan (thankfully dispatched by Loretta Sanchez) but a wrong guy nonetheless.

However, were he to be named for the post, he might not run in the election, and our hopeless Democrat John Graham might have a chance.


hipp0 08.13.04 at 8:53 am

I know the only acceptable liberal talking point is “as hawkish as the Republicans, but now with added competency!” but my dream would be for an influential politician to stand up and say, “you know what, this terrorism thing isn’t really that big a deal. Perhaps the world doesn’t really need to be turned upside down. Maybe we should stop obsessing over it. Just try to stop it when we can, maybe stop supporting/installing autocratic governments, and try to do the right thing.”


Steve 08.13.04 at 2:01 pm

I don’t get it. As a broadly informed guy who knows nothing about Goss (I had never heard of him before about three days ago), he seems like an ideal candidate. Big wigs in government are pretty much interchangeable; Guiliani is Goss is Cox is Ridge etc etc etc. By and large, there’s not alot of difference between them -other than party affiliation.
So given that a Republican is president, one would expect a Republican CIA chief nominee. Given that it could have been any Republican semi-big wig that was nominated for the position, it seems remarkably fortuitous that Bush picked a guy who actually used to work for the CIA! Are you really arguing that Republican presidents shouldn’t nominate Republicans for their political appointments? Anything else is partisan? Sheesh.



Ted Barlow 08.13.04 at 2:58 pm


Of course I don’t mean that. I made the point that I wouldn’t expect consideration in other positions, and I specifically chose Cox in my fantasy because he was a Republican. But it looks plausible that Bush chose a candidate whose track record shows that he wouldn’t be able to work with Kerry. That means that he won’t be able to get anything done until the election (if Bush wins) or until Kerry takes office and dismisses him. That introduces an unnecessary delay that implies a distinct unseriousness about intelligence reform.


Kimmitt 08.14.04 at 3:03 am

Maybe I’m daydreaming, but it seems like we’ve missed a great opportunity for statesmanship.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that the Administration would take any action with respect to the CIA directorship other than nakedly political ones.

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