Much delicious wonderment abounds regarding the fall of George Tenet. Was he fired by the Bushman in a fit of rage, as Capital Hill Blue reports? Or did he offer up his agency and himself as sacrificial lambs in an attempt to appease a panicked White House and an uncomfortable electorate? Former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner thinks Tenet was pushed out.
Tenet himself wrote that he was leaving for personal reasons. On television he emphasized his "wonderful" family.
With the Bush Administration, it’s not about how well you do your assigned job — in Tenet’s case ensuring the President got rock solid intelligence, all the way, all the time, no matter the reaction. It’s how well you do what the Bush Administration wants, all the way, all the time, getting a good reaction behind closed doors. This in mind, here’s what I think happened.
Lots of members of the Bush team have left already, like O’Neill, Clarke, Zinni, DeBeers, Wilson, Keisling, Theilmann, etc. The ones we know obscure the greater number of lesser well-knowns, lower-level appointees and government servants throughout Washington who’ve decided they’ve had enough. And it puts in deep cover all those who want to leave so badly they can taste it but have not or cannot yet.
Colin Powell has likely wanted to leave for a long time, given his treatment by Rumsfeld and the lack of adult supervision provided by George and Condi, and the OSD abuse backed up by Dick Cheney. But Powell isn’t a quitter and he is loyal. He did say last year that he won’t serve a second Bush administration.
Rumsfeld for all of his energy and vision, is also probably getting some vibes from his family that it is long past time. After a successful invasion of Iraq, or perhaps a capture of Osama bin Laden, there would have been time to step down. But sadly for the Pentagon, those "slam dunks," upon inspection, proved tenetized.
Condi, for all her loyalty to Bush, has surely had moments when the frustration was too much. For example, last October, all of the Iraq rebuilding was supposed to be pulled back under her control to prevent squabbling between major government departments. Not much came of that, apparently. Or maybe it did — just not much that was successful. Perhaps Condi was too busy articulating what she did and didn’t allow Bush to see, read or say before 9-11.
Within John Ashcroft’s area of responsibility (the legal, moral, and intellectual facet of every American, with an additional duty of long overdue Constitutional correction), no doubt there have been moments where he wished he could have just gone home and gotten some rest. But his faith in the overweening power of government (with a little help from the Almighty) probably helped bring him through the tough times.
Homeland Security director Tom Ridge has a set of frustrations ranging from major to monumental. Not being told ahead of time about the latest "official government terrorist alert" probably didn’t help his mood. But yet he stays on.
Even many of the neoconservatives who have loved the boneheaded Administration and the snoozing Congress must be feeling the angst. First, the plans to invade Syria went wobbly, and then folks turned against their man Chalabi, accused of not only being a criminal and a liar, but a spy for Iran! Now the FBI is coming to the AEI, DoD and OVP with ye olde lie detector apparatus, raising blood pressures and heart rates for not a few of this gang of kingmakers.
The question we should be asking is this — what makes George Tenet special? Why did he get to leave and none of the rest can figure out a way to do it without appearing to seriously hurt the Bush administration? Why is he liberated, and they are not?
George Tenet — always popular on both political sides of Congress, a reliable public servant, unflappable, always there when a President needed him with what he wanted to hear — is also a smart survivor who will go down in history as not an awful or a great Director of Central Intelligence, but satisfactory one, as CIA Directors go. The CIA’s problem is, like most large and well-funded government bureaucracies, it has become a self-licking ice cream cone. Moral relativism and political survival response in the Director is the tip of the iceberg, and it will take far more than Tenet’s resignation to address root causes and the many branches of the American intelligence disaster.
But the keen hostility towards Tenet expressed for years by neoconservatives like Cheney, former DCI, current member of the Defense Policy Board, and head cheerleader of lousy "intelligence" James Woolsey, and those I worked with at the Pentagon tells me all I need to know. Tenet is likely a far better man, a better public servant, and a better American, than they can hope to be, and he will get a point or two for that when history is written.
He is also a crafty SOB, getting himself fired like that, all grace and aplomb! The man is free and as respected as ever! I suspect many Bush-league baby-boomers in Washington are hoping against hope that Tenet will share his secret recipe.