Wednesday, September 8, 2004
previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (6)
Bush flip-flops on intelligence reform
Bush's actual statement is even more explicit: "We believe that there ought to be a National Intelligence Director who has full budgetary authority." According to the draft plan on the White House's web site, the NID would have significant authority over personnel decisions as well.
Needless to say, this is a departure from what Bush proposed last month on the subject.
I'm still not convinced it's the right thing to do -- and Phil Carter is on vacation, so I can't ask him. What's more interesting is why Bush changed his mind -- was this just blowing with the political winds or does he believe this is the right thing to do?
The title to this post suggests my thoughts on the answer.
UPDATE: It occurs to me that there's a slightly more generous interpretation of Bush's actions -- that he started out with a deliberately vague proposal and then filled in the details over time. Still, even within that vagueness, Bush implied a lot more decentralization than the current proposal.
Meanwhile, over at Slate, Fred Kaplan thinks the debate over bureaucratic debate misses the point about personnel.posted by Dan on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM
Now this is a flip-flop.
Well anyway, I'm not an intelligence expert, nor do I follow foreign policy as much as I follow domestic policy. But to me, it makes sense to for the director to either have these powers or not exist at all. I mean, what's the point of basically having a figurehead?posted by: Brian on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Dan ("Dr Drezner"),
I guess in the spirit of "say nothing good about the President and his administration", you always take a cynical attitude.
Right now, he has to expect to win and live with whatever is put in place. If he expected to lose, he might have the sort of attitude that you seem to think he has.
I still don't see why, from the perspective of someone who is an expert on international relations, you would think that John Kerry winning is a good thing. Every day, he looks more inept, and the prospect of a Kerry administration seems scarier.posted by: Jim Bender on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Frankly, I think there are problems with intelligence reform either way you go and I fear that the press for some sort of reform post-9/11 Commission is likely to lead to problems. Essentially, the issue is whether you want a more centralized or less centralized system. Despite what the Commission said, there are pros and cons to both. The problems with the current system are obvious but there are also problems with centralizing the process as well. If you centralize intelligence, you theoretically eliminate some (but probably not all) bureaucratic barriers that keeps intelligence balkanized. On the other hand, if you centralize intelligence in this way, you really increase the power of that single bureaucracy and you also increase the possibility of "group think", i.e., where people of like mind reinforce each other's biases. It's not clear to me that you would necessarily get a better intelligence product, although you would probably have better ability to integrate and get it to where it needs to be.
One reason Bush may have switched his position is that a more centralized intelligence operation, especially a powerful director appointed by the president, would give the White House more political control over the product. Again, this may be good or bad. You probably need an intelligence director who has some clout in the White House. On the other hand, it increases the potential for politicizing the intelligence process.
I have no idea what the appropriate solution is, but I think we need to be careful about jumping into trendy fixes without thinking it through.posted by: MWS on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Jim: My p-value hasn't changed, but I do have a question -- if you're willing to make allowances for Bush's shift on intelligence reform because "he has to expect to win," for which flip-flops does Kerry get a similar pass?posted by: Dan Drezner on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
I'm intrigued that a Bush flip-flop receives any attention at all.
I had almost come to think that everybody EXPECTS Bush to flip-flop all the time and therefore nobody bothers to take notice anymore.
Or can anybody name a subject of any importance that Bush HASN'T flip-flopped on?
Oh, I think it's quite clearly a political concession. Of course, I just got done with an Intro to American Politics lecture in which I talked extensively about the "do something" (whether it's a good idea or not) instinct in politicians, and this is the perfect example.
As for whether or not it's a flip-flop: of course it is, and Bush should have held his guns on this point (because, er, he was right in the first place).
On the other hand, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Kerry (accused of flip-flopping) doesn't actually flip-flop; he just simultaneously occupies multiple policy positions with a variable probability density function over policy space. So he doesn't flip-flop; he Heisenbergs. In other words, he wasn't for the war before he was against it; he was for it while he was against it.posted by: Chris Lawrence on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
I’m willing to bet real money that this latest flip-flop is a result of “focus group” polling. If you recall, the 9-11 Commission itself was created in spite of this president’s initial opposition. “I was against creating the 9-11 Commission until I was for it”.
The cynicism of these people is truly astounding. On every major issue of this election, from 527s, to 9/11, to Iraq, to stem cells, to steel tariffs, to “tax cuts”, to the deficit, to prescription drugs, to statistical reporting, and finally to "winning" the war on terror, it appears the position of our president and his administration is “shaped” by focus polling for maximum political advantage. I wonder, has any white house chief of staff had a lesser “ink ratio” when compared to the president’s chief political operative than Andy Card vs. Karl Rove?
Think about it. This is probably the most conservative republican platform in years and who speaks for this president in prime time? – a bunch of moderate republicans and a democrat who wishes we still had dueling in this country. Smoke and mirrors.
gw: can anybody name a subject of any importance that Bush HASN'T flip-flopped on?
Tax cuts, I'd say. Started with them when Forbes was thought to be his biggest threat in the primary. Stuck with them even when McCain became his biggest challenger and attacked them as fiscally irresponsible. Stuck with them even when the boom became a bust and the surpluses turned to deficits (although he changed how he marketed them).
It seems to me that Bush is not someone who flip-flops when the circumstances on the ground change. He only flip-flops when put under enough political pressure, like with the intelligence director, steel tariffs, or on Condi testifying, etc.posted by: fling93 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
I might be missing something, but this doesn't seem to be much of a flip-flop. Bush's initial proposal departed from the 9/11 Commission recommendation primarily in putting the NID outside of the Whitehouse, and Drezner's post then states as such. As far as the budget is concerned, Bush initially stated, " I think that the new National Intelligence Director ought to be able to coordinate budgets..". Not as strong as today's proposal, but it doesn't seem to be on par with a major Kerry-esque flip-flop.posted by: bobulooo on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Bush and Card made it clear at the time that "coordinate" did not mean "control" and that budget authority would remain with the individual departments. So basically, the guy would've been able to give non-binding suggestions to the various departments regarding their budgets (e.g. letting the FBI know that they don't need to spend money on something cuz the CIA was already spending money on it). That is very similar to the power already held by the director of the CIA, so I'd say the new proposal is a pretty big departure from that.posted by: fling93 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
fling93 suggested tax cuts as the one area where Bush hasn't flip-flopped.
fling93 included a reference to the fact that Bush has in fact flip-flopped on the reasons given for the tax cuts. So there's your flip-flop already.
In addition, Bush initially opposed the $300/$600 tax rebate checks issued in 2001, which were originally proposed by Democratic senators, but then adopted the idea as his own policy and had the IRS include notices with the checks that sounded a bit like early Bush campaign commercials.
Although, to complicate things, Bush could fairly claim that he didn't actually completely reverse himself on this matter, but only pretended to do so (while reaping all the political rewards, of course), because those "rebate" checks were really advance tax refunds based on the cut in the lowest-level tax rate.
This was politically quite brilliant, really. Most Americans today probably still believe they got both a tax rebate and an additional tax cut in the lowest tax rate, when for many people these two were really one and the same.
Anyway, any other nominations for an area in which Bush hasn't flip-flopped?
Personnel, GW. Hardly any recent administration has seen less turnover in senior positions than this one.
Regarding this intelligence restructuring, I predicted early in August that inasmuch as the President was reacting not so much to the 9/11 Commission report as to the press coverage of the report, his position on restructuring could be expected to change. So this is not a surprise.
However, I note that the new position backs restructuring while reinforcing the position of some of its opponents on the Congressional Armed Services Committees; for all the talk of creating a strong NID, the Pentagon's intelligence agencies would still have their personnel assigned as they are now. You don't need to be a detective to see Sec. Rumsfeld's fingerprints all over this part of the administration's announcement.
At least Bush has given up on the idea of restructuring without Congressional authorization.posted by: Zathras on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
There is a military recalcitrance term called "slow rolling" - "yes sir, we'll roll sir", then nothing happens. Repeated commands, repeated yes sirs, and repeated nothing happens.
I'll believe it when I see it.
And none of this is serious. If they were serious they'll take domestic counterintelligence away from the FBI, which is an active impediment to national security.
We lack effectivce foreign intelligence and domestic counterintelligence. The former has been just a vehicle for political grandstanding for a long time. The latter has been a joke for longer - the FBI is notoriously incompetent. We do have moderately effective military intelligence organizations, so it's them or nothing. We also have pretty good relations with the intelligence organizations of some other countries.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
The czar may be just a smoke screen in any way. The 9/11 Commission was equally concerned about the joint data base usage that would enable people in each agency to cross reference with other agency data-bases on suspects. It would have given the U.S. a better chance of heading off 9/11 if that had been in place, the commission said in its report. One of the failures of the present intelligence community is the failure of the President in power to ensure that he grants the power of the office to the Director of Central Intelligence. In at least one case, the director received this power from the president and took control of intelligence.
The other question is the purse strings. All the intelligence money, including that going to the CIA, is funneled through the Secretary of Defense. In the turf wars of D.C. bureaucracy, that's like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.posted by: chuck rightmire on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Toast - I concur. I've compiled a list of over 40 Bush flip-flops, but I've separated them into "retooled decisions" vs "poll reactions". All the major issue flip-flops (Homeland Sec. dept., 9/11 Commish, etc.) appear to be reactions to bad poll numbers.
My question: with the greatly dimishied role that a 2nd Bush term offers Karl Rove, what will drive policy? The public good?posted by: wishIwuz2 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Of course Bush flip-flops. However the difference is that unlike Kerry, who seems to always be seeking the most nuanced possible position on every issue, Bush is just seeking out the simplest possible position.
If we want to actually talk about what is right and wrong, good for America or bad for America, safe for the world or dangerous for the world...you know the stuff that really matters, rather than some kind of moral absolute...you would find Bush consistently moving to the WRONG!
W does stand for Wrong, and he showed that with this new position today. He showed that in his medicare reform, he showed that in his mismanagement of his misguided war against Iraq, and countless other times. But if it plays in the sticks, I guess that is what we are going to be stuck with.posted by: Rich on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
No flip-flop here. The major ledes all offer some variation on the theme, "Bush approves full budgetary authority to the NID." But this is not the case: the Pentagon would still control allocation for NSA, NRO, and the National Geospatial Intel Agency. In other words, DOD will still control roughly three quarters of the total budget.
This stuff is all election year eyewash. Whether or not you agree with a national director, one thing is clear. Neither Bush or Kerry are being serious about managing the intelligence community.posted by: JR on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Looks like the Dems need to buy some of those flip flop sandals.
Not, of course, that they'll be allowed to take them into Bush rallies the way Bush supporters take them into Kerry rallies....posted by: Susan Paxton on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
There's a major difference, Dan, between changing ones mind about who gets financial auhority on intel, as a matter of process, and somone flipping and flopping repeatedly on the validity of our actions in Iraq. That you need to ask such a question either indicates you're having second thoughts about Kerry... and you should, or you're not as smart as I made you out to be.posted by: Bithead on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
What sin is Bush guilty of today? Is it flip-flopping or (drumroll please) a slightly less sinister case of COMPROMISE? Since when is it a crime for the President to take a position that varies somewhat from the amorphous but still readable will of Congress, then for him to move a bit once he's had the chance to read the public opinion tea leaves? It's called negotiating. It's called compromise.
Flip-flopping is what a fish does when it is powerless to DO anything else; compromise is what people do when everyone agrees that action is required but powerful interest groups disagree on the exact course.posted by: Kelli on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Kerry has not "flip-floped" on Iraq at all. He supported the force authorization based on what the administration was telling everyone when it included funding and opposed it when it did not. Bush supporters refuse to acknowledge this.
Furthermore, a whole heck of a lot of people have changed their position on Iraq once the real truth had been exposed about our reasons for invading. Even the dwindling number of defenders have changed their defense from WMDs, to "growing threat", to democratization, and finally to Saddam was a bad guy. At no other time in our history until now have we gone to war against a non-threat to get rid of a bad guy. $200 billion appears to be just the down payment for something that has weakened our national security. It was a mistake having nothing to do with the war against AQ - period.posted by: TexasToast on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
I wonder if its not a sign that Rumsfeld is in eclipse. If the CW is starting to change about Powell staying on, maybe Rumsfeld is the cabinet member thats not returning. Perhaps McCain's campaigning for the Pres comes with a prid pro quo? Can it be that McCain has managed to position himself so that he's the SecDef favorite no matter who is elected?!posted by: cynical joe on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Interesting conjecture, Jo.
If you ever gitcherself one of them conspiracy theories, please post. Wood B fun 2 read.posted by: wishIwuz2 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Furthermore, a whole heck of a lot of people have changed their position on Iraq once the real truth had been exposed about our reasons for invading.
Good point. It's the Americans people who are flip-floppers on Iraq. Damn liberals.
Heh.posted by: goethean on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Perhaps McCain's campaigning for the Pres comes with a prid pro quo? Can it be that McCain has managed to position himself so that he's the SecDef favorite no matter who is elected?!
Um...yes. Of course. This has been discussed extensively at Steve Clemon's blog, The Washington Note.posted by: goethean on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
gw: fling93 suggested tax cuts as the one area where Bush hasn't flip-flopped [and] ...included a reference to the fact that Bush has in fact flip-flopped on the reasons given for the tax cuts. So there's your flip-flop already.
Yes, I was trying to be cute and snarky there. :)
Kelli: What sin is Bush guilty of today? Is it flip-flopping or (drumroll please) a slightly less sinister case of COMPROMISE? Since when is it a crime for the President to take a position that varies somewhat from the amorphous but still readable will of Congress, then for him to move a bit once he's had the chance to read the public opinion tea leaves? It's called negotiating.
I don't think anyone really considers it a flip-flop. The only reason Drezner and others are calling it a flip-flop is because turnabout is fair play.posted by: fling93 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
It is not a question of flip flops.
The more important question is why has he waited 3 years to act on intelligence.
The only reason he is doing it now is political pressure.
If he were serious he would have dome something years ago.posted by: spencer on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Zathras: Personnel, GW. Hardly any recent administration has seen less turnover in senior positions than this one.
Maybe less turnover (I don't have any numbers), but there have been a few people who were in favor once and then fell out of favor. Most prominently, perhaps, Paul O'Neill.
There are a few more examples given here:
They mention Lawrence Lindsey, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki. And George Tenet still had his job at the time this was written...
I might be missing something, but this doesn't seem to be much of a flip-flop. Bush's initial proposal departed from the 9/11 Commission recommendation primarily in putting the NID outside of the Whitehouse, and Drezner's post then states as such. As far as the budget is concerned, Bush initially stated, " I think that the new National Intelligence Director ought to be able to coordinate budgets..". Not as strong as today's proposal, but it doesn't seem to be on par with a major Kerry-esque flip-flop.
That’s my reading as well. In Daniel Drezner’s previous post he has Bush saying “the new National Intelligence Director ought to be able to coordinate budgets” and in this post he has the White House “unveil[ing] plans Wednesday to give a new national intelligence director strong budgetary authority over much of the nation's intelligence community.”
That’s not a flip-flip, it’s pretty much the Bush administration saying the same thing they said earlier.
Texas; Hardly OT; You may not like the topic, but my answer was in direct respnse to Dan's question about what flip-flopping by Kerry gets cut any slack... a question which of itself assumes the flips are of equal stature.
posted by: Bithead on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Sorry, Texas... I misread you.
Kerry has not "flip-floped" on Iraq at all. He supported the force authorization based on what the administration was telling everyone when it included funding and opposed it when it did not. Bush supporters refuse to acknowledge this.
What the Administration was telling everyone?
Thorley Winston: That’s not a flip-flip, it’s pretty much the Bush administration saying the same thing they said earlier.
Bush and Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who later briefed reporters on the plan, made it clear that the director would not control the nation's $40 billion-a-year intelligence budgets. That power would remain with the individual Cabinet departments and agencies.
This is largely consistent with how the rest of the media reported it at the time, and indeed it drew criticism from supporters of the 9/11 commission's suggestions. It also sparked much debate about whether the new position ought to have budgetary control or not.
So if this was not the idea that Bush had intended to convey, he surely would have corrected it then (much like he did the whole "unwinnable" thing). And I think you would have to be pretty partisan to not remember any of that.posted by: fling93 on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
I understand Kerry _still_ supports the force authorization - with funding - based on his answer to the Bush taunt about "... if you knew then what we know now."
I don't - but he does.posted by: TexasToast on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
GW, you list only two administration appointees who lost their jobs. Offhand I can think of one other, a former Mississippi Congressman named Parker who was head of the Corps of Engineers and testified to Congress against the administration's budget for that agency. The other names you list are people Bush either inherited from Clinton or military officers who reached the end of their assignments. And of course there are a couple of political types, like Ari Fleischer and Karen Hughes, who left jobs at the White House to cash in.
I'm not saying this is a good thing. The list of conspicuously able civilian appointees in this administration is not a long one. But past administration's, notably Gerald Ford's and Jimmy Carter's, suffered political damage when they were perceived to be in turmoil as to personnel, and Bush has avoided that.
On this whole question of flip-flopping -- and I think we can all agree that this is an odious and dangerous vice -- that it should become an accusation against John Kerry ought not surprise anyone. But it seems to have surprised Kerry, who has not as yet defended or counterattacked effectively. That may be a result of his sense of personal entitlement, or of his having gotten too used to campaigning for the votes of people who nearly always vote for liberal Democrats. It may also, in part, be a product of his having decided to campaign as a guy who was a war hero thirty-five years ago -- a nice ticket to have punched, sure, but it leaves a big blank space in people's impressions of Kerry, which space the Bush campaign in filling in.posted by: Zathras on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
The administration's plan comes as the Senate prepares to start crafting its own legislation to address criticisms from the 9/11 commission that the nation's 15 different intelligence agencies did not work together properly to stop the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.posted by: Adipex on 09.08.04 at 04:28 PM [permalink]
Post a Comment: