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January 29, 2004

Inspired Hiring

Frank Gaffney, Jr., makes a suggestion that I'd enthusiastically support:

The president should, instead, feel grateful to the erstwhile head of the Iraq Survey Group, both for his past, courageous public service and for his present candor. And there is no better, or more appropriate, way to express his appreciation than to ask him to replace George Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).

David Kay has, after all, demonstrated once again the qualities of intellect, integrity, and independence that are always desirable in leaders of the U.S. intelligence community, but rarely more necessary than right now. Although he has expressed a view about the status of Saddam's missing weapons programs that is debatable — and may ultimately be proven wrong — the former weapons inspector has certainly said many things that have long needed saying.

Such a move would make valuable statements on many fronts — from accountability for Tenet and the C.I.A., to rewarding the qualities that Gaffney cites, to showing the President to be more concerned with honest results than political considerations. That last point, however, could be merely a matter of appearance, because I'm not as sure as Gaffney about something:

President Bush could be forgiven for feeling annoyed with Dr. Kay. A heated reelection campaign is not exactly the moment any candidate would chose have new turmoil engendered over one of his most controversial decisions.

I've wondered whether there might be more to Kay's resignation than he claimed, particularly if he believes that the proximate Iraqi government will put an effective end to the major period for the WMD search and if he's correct that the job is 85% done. Why not tough it out for a few months, to ensure a continuity of leadership?

Well, in the spring, or whenever that 15% would be wrapped up and the efforts summarized, the election will be much closer, and the primary season will be over. Now, Kay has gotten news that is potentially harmful to the administration out in the open while there's still hope that he's wrong, while the Democrats are still battling each other through rhetoric that they will later mitigate for general consumption, and more importantly, while the President still has time to overcome the obstacle. And if WMDs do show up, then Kay has set the stage for a dramatic revelation, and he has done so without too much personal tarnish.

In this sense, giving Kay Tenet's job would be a justified political reward.

Posted by Justin Katz at January 29, 2004 5:16 PM