We?re about to ?enjoy? a quadrennial tradition. Yes, it?s political convention season.
These gatherings are all political theater, of course. The candidates were selected months ago, and the speeches they?ll give will be approved by focus groups and filled with poll-tested buzzwords. But, for the most part, that?s all right. After all, everyone recognizes the conventions for what they are: Harmless displays of politics.
Still, that?s not to say that all politics are harmless. In fact, we?re seeing an acceleration of partisan politics in Washington -- and it?s a trend that may endanger us.
Because of partisan politics, the Bush administration hasn?t nominated a successor to George Tenet, who stepped down recently as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. We all know we need to shake up the CIA and generate better intelligence, as the final report of the 9/11 commission makes clear. We were plagued by bad intelligence and, as the commission put it, a ?lack of imagination? before 9/11 and in the run-up to the War in Iraq.
So we need a strong, competent CIA director. And we need one quickly. Tenet?s resignation gives us the perfect chance to appoint that person.
The White House apparently planned to nominate Rep. Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, for the position. Goss seems well qualified. A former CIA officer, he chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He?s frequently criticized the CIA, and since 9/11 he?s worked to improve American intelligence-gathering techniques. Plus, as a lawmaker, he could be expected to cruise through the nomination process.
Not so fast. According to The Washington Post, the administration declined to nominate Goss because senior Democrats consider him too partisan. In fact, the newspaper reports, the president may wait until after the election to name Tenet?s successor, since ?Democrats threatened to turn a confirmation hearing for Goss or any other nominee they consider too partisan into a review of the Bush administration?s prewar case for ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.?
So reforming the CIA may have to wait until November, at the earliest. And if President Bush loses, we?d have to wait until John Kerry takes office to get a new CIA director. That could mean January.
Imagine that. Up to six months, or more, without an intelligence chief, even as our country remains at risk of a terrorist attack.