May 7, 2006

Simple Solution To a Weird Objection

Hatched by Dafydd

Associated Press quotes a number of otherwise rational Republicans objecting to the appointment of Gen. Michael Hayden -- currently principle deputy NID (Director of National Intelligence) to the NID himself, John Negroponte, and erstwhile head of the National Security Agency -- as Director of the CIA. What's bugging them? They don't like the idea of a general heading up the CIA, because the CIA is supposed to be a civilian intelligence agency:

Even before President Bush has named his choice to take over the CIA, the Air Force general who is the front-runner drew fire Sunday from lawmakers in the president's own party who say a military man should not lead the civilian spy agency.

The criticism of the expected choice of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA came from some influential Republicans in Congress as well as from Democrats.

"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."

Hoekstra said on "Fox News Sunday" that having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control. If he were to get the nomination, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

(Now there's a shock: the NSA is formally under the control of the Pentagon... and some military guy is running it. Even worse, there's even a military officer in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency... must be some sort of military junta.)

Of course, when Hoekstra says "at this time," he means during a time of war. It seems a little odd to object to a military guy heading up the CIA while we're at war with al-Qaeda; especially since, under civilian control, the CIA has instead been at war with the president, which seems like a suboptimal situation.

Note, the following paragraph is a corrected version:

In any event, Hoekstra is a gentleman of the House of Representatives, which means he plays no role in confirming the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or indeed any other presidential appointment. Alas, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) also objects, and this is a more serious problem: Chambliss is not only a senator, he is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- the very committee that will vote on Hayden as the nominee to be DCIA.

Edit: Yeesh. As several commenters reminded me, Saxby Chambliss is actually a senator, not a representative. I admit, I should have remembered his battle against Max "How dare you question my patriotism" Cleland... still, I haven't memorized every senator; and since the AP story I was using as a source referred to him as a representative, I was fooled. Here's AP:

The sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."

So, mea culpa... but media culpa, as well!

If Chambliss has a political death wish, he could vote against Hayden, which would result in the committee rejecting the nomination. Even if Majority Leader Bill Frist brings it to the floor, it really muddies the waters: the Democrats can say, "hey, the Intelligence Committee already rejected this guy! Of course we have to filibuster him;" they might even get away with it.

That would be catastrophic to Republican chances in November (currently looking pretty good): that sort of churlish incompetence might well be enough to cause conservatives to stay home in droves, ceding the election to the Democrats. Would Saxby Chambliss really be willing to chomp off the entire hand that fed him in 2002? Isn't there some compromise by which Chambliss could declare himself satisfied and support Hayden?

Big Lizards immediately thought of the same solution that others have: General Hayden should simply retire from active duty and then take over the CIA -- as Civilian Hayden.

Hoekstra and Chambliss are having none of that, however; they have already said this would not be sufficient:

"Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don't think makes much difference," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."

The question is, does Chambliss really want to be known as the man who destroyed the Republican majority -- just because he's upset that a military man was appointed? Who would he suggest in Hayden's place... Francis Fargo Townsend? George Tenet? Himself?

Chambliss is not a RINO; he's quite a staunch conservative. Maybe just sitting down, one on one, with Hayden might do it. As Mr. Michael noted in the comments, Hayden -- while a general -- is currently the principle deputy of John Negroponte, who is a lifelong civilian and diplomat who never even served in the military. In fact, Negroponte is engaged in a power struggle with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over who gets to control American intelligence: the civilians or the Pentagon; if anything, Hayden is a Rumsfeld antagonist, despite wearing a uniform.

I don't know why Chambliss is playing this dangerous game. I think it's time for Pat Roberts to really lean hard on him: make him understand that if Hayden retires from active duty, then he is a civilian... and if he brings in a deputy DCIA who is a lifelong civilian spook, that really is a compromise. And make Chambliss understand the political consequences (hence the consequences in the war on jihadi terrorism) if he defected and threw the vote to the Democrats, linking arms with Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin, and Russell Feingold.

By contrast, other Republican senators seem to have no problem with the appointment:

Hayden has his defenders on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he hopes he could be confirmed.

"In all due respect to my colleagues โ€” and I obviously respect their views โ€” General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer," he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "I think that we should also remember that there had been other former military people who have been directors of the CIA."

Ah, I think I understand Hoekstra's point: it's perfectly all right to have an active-duty general head up the CIA when we're at peace, and the general's expertise is not particularly useful; but in a time of war, such a background would just give him an unfair advantage over his fellow intelligence heads, who would feel puny by contrast. Now it all makes sense.

As John over at Power Line noted, nobody fretted in 2001 that retired Gen. Colin Powell being in charge of the State Department meant that the Pentagon was taking over State. Then again, we were at peace then (and for another eight months). Or, if you prefer, al-Qaeda was at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them.

Even Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chambliss' boss on the Intelligence Committee, doesn't seem to mind:

And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who will oversee confirmation hearings for the post, acknowledged on CNN that there is some real concern about somebody from the military heading up the CIA. But he said that can be easily resolved by Hayden resigning his post and bringing in deputies with a strong civilian background.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) does not specifically object to Hayden being a general; he's too busy threatening to prove his RINO-hood by using Hayden's appointment as an opportunity to call the president nasty names:

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers. "I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox.

White House insiders tried to shrug off suggestions that Hayden's military experience could become a serious issue. And they said they welcome a fight over the domestic eavesdropping program โ€” an issue that Bush certainly has not shied away from taking on in his effort to take a tough stance against terrorists. [And an issue where Bush wins more and more with every day of debate. -- the Mgt.]

And of course, Specter can't hold up the nomination any more than Harry Reid (D-Sin City) or Joe Biden (D-DE) can... he could prevent a confirmation vote (as could a Democratic filibuster), but that would just force Bush to resort to a recess appointment... which Specter can't stop.

So I still see no problem:

  1. Hayden resigns from active duty;
  2. Bush appoints him DCIA;
  3. Specter and the Democrats attack Hayden for daring to eavesdrop on al-Qaeda sleeper agents in the U.S;
  4. They hold up the committee vote for a few days, while Bush, Cheney, and the real Republicans pound them for caring more about the rights of Zacarias Moussaoui than about national security and the lives of Americans;
  5. Unwilling to turn his coat and singlehandedly destroy the Republican majority in the Senate, Saxby Chambliss accepts the compromise and votes for Hayden in the committee;
  6. The Dems finally realize how that they're destroying themselves, and they let the confirmation vote in the full Senate proceed;
  7. Alternatively, they decide to go for absolute broke, going "all in" with 7-2 offsuit, and they filibuster Hayden, or use some other sort of procedural gimmick to prevent him from getting a confirmation vote;
  8. In which case Bush appoints Hayden during the June recess, and we head into the November election with the Democrats (and the occasional RINO) clearly and unambiguously on the side of the terrorists.

Looks good to me!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2006, at the time of 6:57 PM

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The following hissed in response by: BT

Chambliss is a Senator

The above hissed in response by: BT [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 9:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

"Chambliss is a Senator" and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence if Captain Ed is to be trusted (I'm too lazy to look it up myself.)

I linked from Porter Goss resigns as DCI (Updated & Bumped -- Twice). I hope W reads your blog and goes right ahead with nominating Hayden. The only thing that bothers me at all about Hayden is that John "What 1st Amendment?" McCain likes him.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 9:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

I'm curious about what the core objection really is here. As Dafydd and the Powerline guys pointed out, GENERAL Colin Powell did not upset anybody when he took over State.

And correct me if I'm wrong, Negroponte is the guy who is supposed to be in a struggle with Donald Rumsfeld for control over our Intelligence forces, right? And while General Hayden is a General, he's under Don Rumsfeld but WORKS under Negroponte. To whom does he give his allegiance? The assumptions I've read is that he's a Negroponte guy.

So in the end, General Hayden is ACTING less like a puppet of the Pentagon, and more of an opponent to it... or at least to Donald Rumsfeld. This being the case, I just cannot see why Chambliss is concerned. Hoekstra of course may just be whoring himself for votes or his idea of posterity (IS he running again? I thought he was up against his self-imposed term limit again) and as a member of the House we can just ignore him for this issue.

But really. If Hayden's a Negroponte guy, his status as a General is moot; he'll not be taking back-room orders from Rumsfeld, will he?

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 10:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: RiverRat

It's already been noted that Chambliss is a Senator from GA having replaced Max Cleland. I also believe he's a member of the the Senate Select Committee on Intel (his website doesn't say, though it's been reported of Fox today)

Keep your focus on a couple of things. The 9-11 Commish, Silverman/Robb, and the Congress created the Directorate of National Intel over initial objection by Dubya and this is totally about complying with their wishes..taking "Central" out of CIA and putting "National" into DNI.

Goss, imho, was whipsawed by the LPG (Liberal Praetorian Guard) at the Agency and Negroponte and Bush's desire, given the congressional mandate, to nationalize strategic intel analysis.

Goss wanted to eliminate the LPG but maintain the "Central" in CIA. Rock and hard place.

The above hissed in response by: RiverRat [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 10:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Thanks, guys. I rewrote the post to take the new information into account. And &$*(@#! that antique media...! How was I to know that when AP referred to "Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss," they really meant "Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss?"

I really hate AP sometimes.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 12:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Only "sometimes"? I pretty much hate them all the time, unless they're writing about my favorite baseball team.

Anyway, why Rumsfeld has become the focal point of this appointment illustrates the core issue of Republicans on the Hill: they get easily distracted by beside-the-point bureaucratic turf battles (even though we're fighting a WAR!). Sorry to yell, but how else can you get their attention?

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 10:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz

I got three words for you:

Admiral Stansfield Turner.

How soon we forget.

The above hissed in response by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 1:09 PM

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