(Sorry for AWOL status. I spent yesterday in Athens and have just arrived for a conference in Florence where the internet is out at the hotel and in short supply elsewhere.)
Yesterday, General Michael Hayden’s confirmation process to serve as Porter Goss’s successor as CIA Director moved out of the Senate Intelligence Committee on a 12-3 vote.
Those voting against were Ron Wyden, Russ Feingold and Evan Bayh.
This is interesting as Feingold rarely votes against a presidential nominee — though he did so on John Bolton. Feingold sees the duplicity about the warrantless wiretaps as something to really dig in about, and I admit to admiring Feingold’s steadfastness.
But this gambit of opposition is not designed to win.
While some have expressed surprise at my general support of Hayden’s nomination, others understand what is going on in this Hayden debate.
First, most Democrats and most small-government, classic conservative Republicans have failed these many months to destroy the foundation of the President’s assertion that Congress gave him the ability to spy domestically without warrant in the Iraq War resolution. Tom Daschle and many have argued that there was a negotiated path that disallowed the White House from using the word “domestic” in its preferred resolution. But Members of Congress have failed to make that deal stick, and the Presidency has continued to expand its powers wherever the Congress and Judiciary fail to knock it back.
Michael Hayden should be chastised and scrutinized over his role in the warrantless wiretap program, but he is not the problem. A President unchecked by Congress is the problem, and Ron Wyden and Evan Bayh — though I like both — have failed to go to the floor and amend every piece of legislation with clarifications that the President has no warrantless domestic spying authority.
Forcing votes over and over on this issue, much like Senator Ted Kennedy has done in the past on minimum wage hikes, is the way to have won this battle — not hanging responsibility for the program on Michael Hayden.
While I have some issues with Hayden, I do believe that he is one of the last hopes in restoring some order at the CIA and rolling back Donald Rumsfeld’s colonization of the nation’s national security bureaucracy.
Rumsfeld is my target, and those who see Negroponte, Hayden, and Rumsfeld on the same page are incorrect.
Negroponte will use Hayden to gore Rumsfeld, Stephen Cambone, and William Boykin.
And some in the White House — a bit frustrated that Rumsfeld is not “removable” at this time, as one staffer told me — does not mind cultivating a bit of competition among the President’s intel rivals. This helps give the President some latitude beyond Rumsfeld and is, in general, a smart move that also may be good for the country.
For Dems and others concerned about national security decisionmaking, learning to turn some of these internal tensions into opportunities — as I think Russ Feingold sometimes does — is something that the Democratic Party leadership needs to master to get back into the race.
— Steve Clemons