Tuesday's must-reads

By Stephen W. Stromberg
Published August 10, 2004 2:14PM (EDT)

The Associated Press reports this morning that President Bush has nominated Rep. Porter Goss, a former spook, to run the CIA.

"President Bush on Tuesday nominated Rep. Porter Goss of Florida to head the embattled CIA, saying the former agency operative 'knows the CIA inside and out.'

"'He is well prepared for this mission,' the president said of Goss, chairman of the House intelligence committee. 'He's the right man to lead and support the agency at this critical moment in our nation's history.'

"Goss, whose nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, had been mentioned prominently in speculation about a successor to departed CIA Director George Tenet, who left amid a torrent of criticism of the agency's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"Bush still has a major decision ahead of him. He has embraced a cornerstone recommendation by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks: creation of a new intelligence czar to oversee the activities of the CIA and more than a dozen other intelligence agencies.

"'I think every American knows the importance of getting the best possible intelligence we can get to our decision-makers,' Goss, 65, said during the Rose Garden announcement."

Wait for discussion of the political fallout as the story develops today.

When John Kerry tries to explain his vote in the Senate to authorize the use of force in Iraq, it's usually not his most soundbitable moment. On Monday, when he tried to make his nuanced views more forceful, he actually sounded like President Bush. The New York Times reports today:

"Senator John Kerry said Monday that he would have voted to give the president the authority to invade Iraq even if he had known all he does now about the apparent dearth of unconventional weapons or a close connection to Al Qaeda.

"'I believe it's the right authority for a president to have,' said Mr. Kerry, who has faced criticism throughout his presidential campaign for that October 2002 vote.

But Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, extended his attack on President Bush's prosecution of the war, saying he had not used the Congressional authority effectively.

"'My question to President Bush is, Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace?' Mr. Kerry told reporters here after responding to Mr. Bush's request last week for a yes-or-no answer on how he would vote today on the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq."

And what of America's future in Iraq? "Standing at an elevation of 7,200 feet on the edge of the canyon, Mr. Kerry also set a goal of reducing the number of troops in Iraq by next summer, though both he and his advisers rushed to say that deployment would depend on diplomatic progress and democratic elections in Iraq, among other things.

"'I believe if you do the kind of alliance-building that is available to us that it is appropriate to have a goal of reducing our troops over that period of time,' he said. 'Obviously, we have to see how events unfold. The measurement has to be, as I've said all along, the stability of Iraq, the ability to have the elections, and the training and transformation of the Iraqi security force itself.'

"At the same time, Mr. Kerry said, if commanders on the ground ask for a troop increase, 'you'd have to respond to what the commanders asked for.'"

Tim Russert answered questions over the weekend in the ongoing investigation into who leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press last summer, effectively blowing the CIA operative's cover. The Los Angeles Times reports:

"The special counsel investigating whether the Bush administration illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative has questioned a second journalist about conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, officials said Monday.

"NBC News said its Washington bureau chief, Tim Russert, was interviewed Saturday by prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in connection with a conversation Russert had last summer with top Cheney aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. "The network said Russert, host of 'Meet the Press,' was asked 'limited questions' about a telephone conversation that the White House aide had initiated in early July last year. Libby had disclosed the conversation to the FBI. "The network said in a statement that Russert told Fitzgerald during the interview that he did not know Valerie Plame's name or her identity as a CIA operative until reading Robert Novak's syndicated column published July 14, 2003." But not every journalist has been as cooperative as Russert. "Saturday's interview came after a federal judge in Washington ordered Russert and Matthew Cooper, a correspondent for Time magazine, to respond to questions from Fitzgerald. "In May, Fitzgerald had subpoenaed the testimony of the two journalists before a federal grand jury investigating the leak, but the two news organizations fought the requests in court, citing the 1st Amendment. Their bid was denied by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan in an order dated July 20 and made public Monday. "Hogan ruled that Cooper and his employer were in contempt of court but suspended any sanctions pending an appeal. "Jim Kelly, managing editor of Time, said the magazine would appeal the ruling. If Time loses, Cooper could be jailed under Hogan's order until he agreed to testify before the grand jury, and the magazine could be fined $1,000 a day."

President Bush put forth his economic vision for his next term yesterday, and it's strikingly similar to his old, tax-cut-happy vision. The Wall Street Journal reports:

"Handcuffed by big budget deficits but eager to show voters a fresh economic agenda, President Bush laid out the central economic theme of his re-election campaign: He is pledging to create an 'era of ownership' that will include proposals to partially privatize Social Security, and liberalize tax breaks for health care, savings and job training.

"Most of the specific White House campaign proposals are likely to be small-scale, and will leave some of Mr. Bush's backers yearning for bolder steps to assuage voter anxiety over issues such as jobs, and lay the groundwork for a sweeping, conservative legacy. Most will also likely just repeat previous proposals, albeit in somewhat revised or expanded form. In large part, the Bush advisers feel constrained by the president's pledge to cut the budget deficit to $260 billion by 2009, down from the projected $445 billion this year. The White House economic team's caution toward new initiatives also reflects the risk-averse attitude of a campaign facing a close election.

"The new Bush economic push will, however, set up a striking philosophical contrast with Democratic challenger John Kerry, whose economic plan centers on higher taxes for the most affluent households, and expanding government funding for health care, education, and other areas. The president is arguing that he has a different theory of economic stewardship."

The Los Angeles Times reports today that Democrats outspent the Bush campaign two-to-one on campaign ads in the beginning of August.

"Although Sen. John F. Kerry has essentially stopped advertising, the Democratic National Committee and like-minded organizations kept the presidential candidate's message on television in battleground states and spent more than twice as much as the Bush campaign during the first week of August.

"President Bush surged back to the airwaves after the Democratic National Convention, spending nearly $4.4 million on television advertising in 19 states, after going dark during the Boston nomination for Kerry. But organizations backing the Massachusetts senator outpaced the president by spending more than $11 million on ads during the same period.

"A report released Monday by the ad tracking firm TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG showed that from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 the DNC spent just over $8 million to buy ads in 19 states, while the Media Fund, an independent group that supports Kerry, spent $3.1 million in seven states."

How do you pull off winning a national election on a GOP ticket? Pretend like you're not Republicans, just like last time. The Washington Times reports that the Bush campaign is doing its best to keep extremist language out of the Party platform.

"Immigration and homosexual marriage are shaping up to be the most contentious issues facing Republican platform writers in the weeks before the party's national convention, convention officials said.

"Just as Sen. John Kerry's campaign kept the Democrats' platform negotiations low profile in order to convey a message of party unity during the Democratic convention, the Bush campaign seeks to project an image of consensus at its convention, which begins Aug. 30 in New York.

"Also as the Kerry campaign did, the president's team is managing the work of the platform committee from behind the scenes.

"'Obviously, immigration is one of the issues we'll be discussing,' said platform spokeswoman Ginny Wolfe.

"Asked whether there was an effort to keep immigration and same-sex marriage off the committee's plate, she said, 'Historically, our platform delegates always have spirited debates, but I'm not going to predict what they're going to be about this time.'

"However, one Republican who is close to the platform process but asked not to be identified said Bush representatives working with the platform writers 'will try to prevent extremism in language on gay rights by some evangelical groups and on immigration by some of our conservatives.' "And referring to Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, he added: 'Obviously, there will be more of a fight on Tom's issue.'

"Mr. Tancredo has led efforts in Congress to strengthen enforcement of immigration laws and has publicly opposed President Bush's plan -- announced in January -- to grant 'guest-worker' status to some illegal immigrants.

"Several Republicans associated with the platform-committee activities who requested anonymity described an effort by the Bush forces to head off any language that might seem 'unwelcoming' to immigrants or intolerant of homosexuals."

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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