By JAY AMBROSE
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
President Bush endorses the idea of a national intelligence director, sort of, kind of, half and half, and Sen. John Kerry says let's get this thing done, not months from now, but right away, and then common sense comes up with a suggestion: Hold tight, calm down, wait and think and figure this thing out.
The idea for the intelligence director and a number of other changes in how the government goes about coping with this country's enemies comes from the Sept. 11 commission, which did a shameful thing. It called for immediate actions on its recommendations. Now even if the commission is right in all it says -- and there are interesting reasons to think it isn't -- it is an absurdity to suppose decision-makers can know it is right without study, reflection and debate.
The special problem of the moment is politics. This is a presidential election year, meaning that however much doubt the president and his advisers may have about the commission's thinking, they don't want to appear hesitant while the other side appears decisive and strong. It would seem the administration has both doubts and political concerns. While it came out for many of the recommendations, it also hedged its bets, agreeing, for instance, to create the office of national intelligence director, but without giving it all the authority that the commission wanted.
Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential candidate sees an opportunity and is taking it: He says there should be a right-this-minute special session of Congress to do the commission's bidding, as if, in a flash, he knows the commission is right.
His insight, it might be suggested, is a consequence of seeing a way to best his opponent in the public eye. As far as is noticeable, long, hard contemplation is absent. Might it be the case that the commission's proposals, if enacted, would lead to stacking bureaucrats with the final consequence that nothing gets done or gets done laggardly?
Dangers lurk all over the map, but more in acting too quickly than in taking the time to get any major restructuring of intelligence right.
X Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers.