KWAME HOLMAN: President Bush nominated Porter Goss to be CIA Director just as debate began on making the most sweeping changes in the nation's intelligence community in more than 50 years.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: He is the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment in our nation's history.
KWAME HOLMAN: Goss, a former CIA agent himself, has had a front row seat during the most tumultuous period in the agency's history. He served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for the past eight years, reviewing the pre 9/11 and pre-Iraq War intelligence failures. But during his confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, several Democrats, led by ranking member Jay Rockefeller, criticized Goss for his recent "political" attacks, including those directed at John Kerry, and his record on intelligence.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER: I do have a number of concerns about whether your past partisan actions or statements will allow you to be that type of nonpartisan, independent and objective national intelligence director that our country needs.
KWAME HOLMAN: But on the floor of the Senate today, fellow Floridian and Democrat Bill Nelson urged his colleagues to look beyond Goss's past remarks.
SEN. BILL NELSON: Has Porter said things that he probably wishes that he wouldn't have said, yes, but who among us have not made those kind of mistakes. I think it is the duty, the constitutional duty of this Senate to render a verdict and I think that that verdict ought to be approval of Porter Goss as director of Central Intelligence.
KWAME HOLMAN: Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said he was willing to look past Goss' partisan comments. Still he questioned Goss' willingness to push for intelligence reforms.
SEN. RON WYDEN: At one point in our hearings the nominee told me that it was difficult to get attention to the issues of intelligence on his watch. He said that the reason he hadn't introduced legislation is that people just weren't focused on it. It was hard to get people's attention. I believe that a chairman of a key committee can get attention when they want to use that chairmanship as a bully pulpit to be an agent for change. I believe that a chairman, who's committed to intelligence reform has the chance, when they bang their gavel, to speak out for why changes are needed. A leader must lead.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans meanwhile lined up in support of Porter Goss.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS: We need a strong director of central intelligence with the necessary skills to manage a community which needs reform. Porter Goss understands these issues.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: He knows where the problems are because he was there, and he knows how to strengthen it, to make it better.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISSS: He has an unparallel relationship with the intelligence community around the world, not because he's a good guy, but because they respect him for the work that he has done.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Nobody is going to come before us who is perfect in every way. But I've got to say, there are very few people who have served as much as Porter Goss has.
KWAME HOLMAN: And, as expected, late this afternoon the Senate approved the nomination of Porter Goss to be CIA Director, 77 to 17, with all Republicans and most Democrats voting in support.