Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 22, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

PRESIDENTIAL CHARACTER....Over at NRO, Jonah Goldberg says that George Bush just can't catch a break:

To understand the president's Catch-22 with his critics, consider his latest move as he prepares for his second term: shaking up the Central Intelligence Agency. Ever since 9/11 a cacophonic chorus has been calling for shake-ups at the CIA. "Why hasn't anyone been fired?" demanded everyone from the New York Times and the Democratic party to the so-called 9/11 families. The 9/11 commission demanded a huge shake-up not only of our intelligence bureaucracy but of the way we think about national security more broadly.

Well, the administration is attempting to do that. Porter Goss, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a one-time CIA operative himself, is shaking things up. Several longtime and senior veterans of the agency have resigned in protest over Goss's supposedly rough and rude tactics. The protest doesn't end there, of course. They've brought their grievances to a press corps all but elated to let the opponents of change and reform use them as a megaphone.

He's absolutely right. But there a bit more to it. Consider:

  • 9/11 was the biggest CIA failure in history. No one was fired for this.

  • The CIA's assessment of Iraq's WMD program turned out to be completely wrong. George Tenet reportedly called it a "slam dunk." No one was fired for this.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee reported that the CIA didn't have a clue about the likely extent of the postwar insurgency. No one was fired for this.

  • During the presidential campaign, several CIA sources leaked material to the press that was damaging to President Bush. Shortly after the election, people started getting fired.

What does this tell you about George Bush's priorities? Just this: even though a bipartisan chorus of voices has called for a CIA shakeup ever since 9/11, Bush did nothing for three long years. The only thing serious enough to finally prompt him to take action was a few CIA leaks that made him look bad.

Quite a president we have, eh?

Kevin Drum 9:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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