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Posted by on May 8, 2006 in At TMV | 6 comments

Bush Nominates Hayden For CIA Chief And Talking Points Are Issued (UPDATED)

Amid growing indications that the name he floated to become the new CIA Director would spark opposition from Democrats and was also not popular among some key Republicans, President George Bush has gone ahead and announced that he’s nominating Gen. Michael Hayden to the post.

Here’s the text of the announcement.

See our post here about how controversial it is — and how it’s one more example of the Bush administration brushing aside a chance to pick someone who is not controversial and who has widespread bipartisan support.

Read the quotes HERE and you’ll see that he’s largely supported by Republicans who can be relied on to support the party line, no matter what; opposed by some key Democrats; and not the favorite of some Republicans.

Meanwhile, the White House has issued talking points that you can read by CLICKING HERE or by listening to Rush, Sean — or by watching Fox News.

The bottom line is that once again the administration is making a decision and framing it as the best option it had. But was it?

In this case, the question is whether reporters should ask incoming Press Secretary Tony Snow is whether (a) there were no civilians qualified to head the CIA, (b) no Republican or Democratic members of Congress qualified to head the CIA, (c) no fresh face from the outside (as opposed to from within the administration, which clearly likes to promote and select from within) who could head the CIA.

Instead, the choice is being framed as Hayden being the best man for the job — much as Harriet Miers was called the best person for the job as Supreme Court Justice…the very best candidate, after an exhaustive search.

As we wrote earlier, this administration, more than any other perhaps in American history, has an “in-your-face” attitude where faced with choosing to make a decision or an appointment that could enjoy widespread appeal and support and unite the county will almost invariably choose to go for the decision that will divide the country. President George Bush apparently believes leadership means imposing one’s will versus choosing a path and then making sure a decision has wide support.

It’s too early to predict what will happen, but here’s one possibility:

  1. Hayden will be grilled in hearings about warrantless wiretaps. Some Republicans may ask tough questions or suggest they would rather have a civilian in charge.
  2. The Hayden nomination will increasingly be framed by supporters and the White House as being a vote to allow the government to collect information on terrorists so voting for him means strength and voting against him will be suggested as being a sign of weakness on national security. The issue of a military or civilian heading the CIA could fall by the wayside.
  3. The White House will pressure GOPers to support its man for the CIA on the grounds that the President feels he is essential for the post and that a vote against Hayden will weaken the President for the rest of his term – and that Republican voters may not like it if Republicans in Congress don’t stick by the White House.
  4. Issues raised in the hearings and in sound bites that can be used against Democrats to paint them as lax on security will be used. (See THIS POST on how judicial nominations are apparently going to be used to spark confrontations.)
  5. If the White House does a full-court press on members of its party during an election year (and if Bush’s poll numbers don’t fall a great deal more between now and the time the vote is taken) Hayden will be approved.

The key question remains: you mean there was NO OTHER CANDIDATE (as in the case of Miers) who could be named to this post that would have been qualified and have wide support and not spark a political battle?

But that’s apparently what happens when a President feels he’s The Decider versus The Problem Solver.

UPDATED: An excellent, thought-provoking MUST-READ TAKE on this comes from Steve Clemmons, who makes us re-think our previous posts (including this one). Clemmons contends that Hayden is being brought in to battle Donald Rumsfeld, not rubber-stamp him:

What is interesting is that nearly all the pundits or politicos who have a problem with Hayden, an Air Force General, are asserting that his appointment would consolidate Rumsfeld’s efforts to establish comprehensive military dominance over the nation’s national security intelligence bureaucracy.

This is probably wrong in my view.

Hayden going to head CIA is John Negroponte’s effort to wrest some of the ground back from Rumsfeld in the intelligence wars underway. Hayden directed the National Security Agency before joining Negroponte as his Deputy. Hayden will still report to Negroponte — and Hayden’s familiary and expertise with the military dimensions of intelligence will help Negroponte set Rumsfeld back a few squares.

He expands on this, then writes:

Negroponte is not putting at the CIA a Rumsfeld-henchman. He’s putting in someone who — despite the duplicity about the warrantless wiretaps — many military officials respect and trust, and someone who understands the intel world in ways that Goss will never be able to.

Michael Hayden represents a next round of internal battles between Negroponte and Rumsfeld.

And given the incredible damage that Rumsfeld is doing to this nation’s national security — I’ll keep my own powder dry on Negroponte and Hayden. I think that what they may be doing now is important and potentially constructive in constraining the Rumsfeld/Cheney cabal.

Read the post in its entirety. It does put a different light on this. (We will be studying it further as it develops).

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