Porter Goss and that blue dress

Published August 11, 2004 4:44PM (EDT)

The confirmation quest of Porter Goss has the makings of a nasty political fight, and Goss himself has poured much of the fuel on the partisan fire.

Over the last several months, Goss has been a helpful handmaiden in Bush's re-election fight. As the Washington Post reported today, Goss participated in a Bush campaign conference call with reporters in June, saying that some of John Kerry's national security proposals were "naove."

Later in the month, Goss used a House debate on the intelligence authorization bill as an opportunity to campaign against Kerry. In comments made on the House floor, Goss criticized the Massachusetts senator for suggesting, in 1997, that the end of the Cold War might lead to reductions in U.S. intelligence spending.

Many Republicans shared that view, of course. As the analysts at the Annenberg Public Policy Center pointed out in a recent Fact Check, leaders from both parties suggested that the collapse of the Soviet Union should lead to cuts in the intelligence budget. In 1996, the bi-partisan Aspin Commission acknowledged that the intelligence budgets would have to be cut in order to balance the federal budget, and that such cuts "may be possible without damaging the nation's security." The Commission's members included Paul Wolfowitz -- and Porter Goss.

None of that stopped Goss's partisan attack on the House floor. "There is no doubt where the record is," Goss said in June. "The Democratic Party did not support the intelligence community."

It isn't the first time Goss has lowered himself into the partisan pit. Although a federal grand jury is now apparently deep into an investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valeria Plame, Goss dismissed the matter last year as part of a "much larger dose of partisan politics." Goss suggested that the leak of an agent's identity was akin to the many other leaks that spring in Washington, and therefore not important enough to investigate. In the process, Goss revealed what kind of charges he would take seriously: "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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