• “Neither Bush nor Goss offered a reason for his departure.” (Associated Press)
• “In a hastily arranged Oval Office announcement that stunned official Washington, neither President Bush nor Goss offered a substantive reason for why the head of the spy agency was leaving after only a year on the job.” (New York Daily News)
• Porter Goss said Saturday that his surprise resignation as CIA director is “just one of those mysteries,” offering no other explanation for his sudden departure after almost two years on the job. (CNN)
• “Seated next to President Bush in the Oval Office, Goss, a Republican congressman from Florida before he took over the CIA, said he was ‘stepping aside’ but gave no reason for the departure. (Washington Post)
• “Mr. Goss said it had been ‘a very distinct honor and privilege’ to lead the CIA. ‘I would like to report to you that the agency is back on a very even keel and sailing well,’ Mr. Goss said. He did not explain his decision, and both he and Mr. Bush ignored questions after making their statements. (New York Times)
Remarkable, isn’t it?
Reason-giving is basic to government by consent of the governed. Very basic. An Administration that doesn’t have to give reasons for what it is doing is unaccountable to the American people and their common sense, to world opinion–even to itself. To pressure the CIA director to leave after 20 months in the job, and to give no reason at all for it–not even “spend more time with the family”–is a big screw you to anyone trying to discern what the President is doing and what the government is up to. This is why we have professional journalists as part of our public life. They are supposed to step in when reason-giving falters, and press for an explanation. And if today the White House press corps can’t get an explanation for Goss’s departure, it will fail some basic test of usefulness.
Forecast for Snow
Especially after Goss called his abrupt departure “one of those mysteries,” reporters will, I think, be asking lots of CIA director questions today. Most will be about his chosen replacement, General Michael Hayden, but some will be about Goss. The correspondents know how many shocked people there were in Washington on Friday. They know Goss resigned “under pressure,” as the Washington Post said Sunday.
Today Tony Snow, the new White House press secretary, is supposed to take over. Thus it’s possible we will know right away whether Snow represents a change in White House strategy, or a corrective to the old strategy of de-certifying the press and rolling it back.