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May 8, 2006
Feinstein: I'm Inclined To Support Hayden

Neil Cavuto interviewed Senator Dianne Feinstein about the nomination of General Michael Hayden as the replacement of Porter Goss at the CIA. Far from hostile to the appointment, Feinstein praised Hayden as a "superb choice" for the Director position. She claimed than anyone familiar with the intelligence community would have listed Hayden as one of the three top picks for the position, and that while she would not commit to any vote before a thorough hearing, at the moment she was "inclined" to support Hayden's nomination.

Here is a rough transcript of the interview:

DF: ... Good to be here, Neil, but I think you have that a little bit wrong. I haven't been blasting that choice at all. As a matter of fact, I think that he is a very competent intelligence professional, which I think the CIA needs at this particular point in time. The only problem with it is that the CIA has been traditionally -- traditionally, I say -- been a civilian agency, and there is concern about the fact that he is a four-star general. But I think he is a superior human being, I think he would be very competent, I think he would restore morale and do what he has to do within the agency.

NC: ... Is there concern on your part? Do you have concerns about his military credentials?

DF: Yeah, ideally I'd like it to be a civilian. If you ask me, and I think it's true of everyone up here, give me three choices and Mike Hayden would be on everybody's three choices. A majority. Number one, he is totally qualified for this post. About 80% of intelligence dollars is controlled by Defense. There is concern about that. On the other hand, General Hayden can be independent. He can stand up, he's done that before, and hopefully he would be willing to do that again. I think he'll bring in some superb professionals to surround himself with, and particularly his number two, which I think is important. ...

NC: All things being equal and the vote were tomorrow, how would you vote?

DF: That's a hypothetical question, I know better than that. I --

NC: Would you be inclined to support him or reject him?

DF: Look, I think this is a very good appointment. I want to get through the hearing, there are a number of questions -- I think the NSA electronic surveillance will come up. I would anticipate that I would be supportive, and I want to be supportive. This is not a business as usual time. We have to get on with it, and we have to get this replacement in place as soon as possible. At the same time, we need to do our due diligence. We need to ask the questions and get the answers. So I would hope that Senator Roberts would schedule the hearing next week so we can get on with it and get it done by Memorial Day. ...


DF: He's superbly qualified, that's the bottom line for all of this.

It sounds as if the hearings may not provide the drama we once feared, or that the White House may have wanted. Feinstein sounded like more of a Hayden booster than Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as her counterpart on the SSCI, Saxby Chambliss. This was just a hair shy of a ringing endorsement, military commander or not, and she acknowledged that the appointment of Stansfield Turner to the same position during the Carter administration did set a precedent for a military commander to lead the CIA.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of her caucus reacts to these comments.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 8, 2006 6:08 PM

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