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Panetta Decries Tabloid Atmosphere in Carns Case

March 13, 1995| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Speaking in the aftermath of another nomination that went astray, White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta decried on Sunday what he said is the tabloid atmosphere that punishes those seeking public office.

Panetta's comments came a day after President Clinton moved to head off another nomination misadventure by naming Deputy Defense Secretary John M. Deutch to be the next CIA director. His first nominee, retired Air Force Gen. Michael P.C. Carns, withdrew Friday after acknowledging errors involving a Filipino he brought to the United States.

Panetta, interviewed on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation," denied that the Carns case was a repeat of the Administration's nomination missteps, including Zoe Baird to be attorney general, Bobby Ray Inman to be defense secretary and, most recently, Dr. Henry W. Foster Jr. to be surgeon general.

"We are in a period where there is just a much higher level of scrutiny," Panetta said.

Panetta described it as a Catch-22 in which the Administration wants to move quickly to fill vacancies but must wait months for the FBI to conclude background checks that at times turn up damaging allegations.

Deutch, who has already gone through extensive background checks in gaining his current position, is expected to have a smooth road to confirmation.

"I expect to support him," Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), said Sunday on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press." "I think he's a good choice. He probably should have been chosen to begin with."

Gramm also said that if elected President he will oppose using tax money to provide abortions but will not push for a constitutional amendment to overturn abortion rights.

He said that he is personally against abortion but that he would not make abortion a litmus test in deciding on his running mate.

The practical public policy, he said, would be to oppose taxpayer funding unless the mother's life is in danger.

Gramm also said he would filibuster the nomination of Foster to be surgeon general if it reaches the Senate floor. He said he was unhappy with Foster's record as a doctor and his difficulty in recounting how many abortions he had performed.

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