Tue 10 Aug
A couple of quotes from Porter Goss, President Bush’s nomination to head the CIA, made me nearly choke on the pen cap I was chewing at work this afternoon. I was in the middle of an afternoon spent wrestling with PowerPoint when I heard these remarks, taped earlier this summer at a Republican breakfast, on a profile of the nominee during All Things Considered, and they sent a chill through me.
The first quote:
“Fighting terrorism is not a popularity contest. A lot of people think that the purpose of the United States of America is to be loved around the world. Wrong. The purpose of the United States of America is to be respected for what we are.”
That’s not exactly in line with my view of the world, but I can accept it as an opinion that merely diverges from mine. Here’s the one that really got me:
“We‘re talking about the balance between privacy on the one hand and protection from a big brother government. But we’re also talking about the government’s responsibility to protect our people.
“It comes down to the choices — my staff has said to me many times — between big brother and dead brother. And I think our responsibility in government is to make sure we don’t have any more dead brothers.”
Did I hear that right? Sitting there in the office, trying to manage a shot of disbelief chased down with fright, I wasn’t even sure if I had. I was wrestling with PowerPoint’s uncooperative charting tool, so I wasn’t focusing, and maybe I had just misheard Goss use the term “Big Brother” — surely he meant it in a cautionary way. But after the audio archives came online this evening, I went back to check and see if my memory matched up to reality. It did. If Goss’s comments represent his current thinking or that of the White House — as I would wager that they do — that means we have a nominee for one of the most pivotal roles in government who contends that the only alternative to death by terrorism is to surrender our civil liberties to a Big Brother state.