George Tenet has resigned as CIA director, President Bush announced Thursday, ending the increasingly stormy tenure of a man under fire for the department’s intelligence before the Iraq war.
In a brief appearance before leaving for Europe, Bush told reporters he had met Wednesday night at the White House with Tenet. “He told he me was resigning for personal reasons. I told him I was sorry he was leaving,” Bush said.
Tenet will serve until mid-July and will be temporarily replaced by Deputy Director John McLaughlin, Bush said.
Glenn Reynolds says, “It’s about time,” and it’s difficult to argue with that assessment. Whatever the reasons, our intelligence services failed to gather a comprehensive look at the gathering threat of Islamofascism. It would be terribly unfair to lay the blame entirely at Tenet’s feet. however. Plenty of politicians eager to gut the CIA for long-held personal motives or simply out of a mistaken belief in the “end of history” share the blame for our substandard intelligence performance. Most of that predated Tenet’s tenure as DCI anyway.
However, in the slow reaction and the ready, smooth, and meaningless responses to the various CIA crises that Tenet regularly provided, he demonstrated that he just was not the man to lead our intelligence services in an era that demands accountability and daring, and less of the bureaucratic outlook that characterized Tenet. In the months following 9/11, I found myself looking for an acerbic and no-nonsense approach to winning the war through superior intelligence work, like a James Jesus Angleton or even a Bill Casey, someone who irritates all the right people but gets the job done. In my admittedly pedestrian opinion, Tenet managed to hang around because he shmoozed the right people, not because of any particular effectiveness, and that’s no recipe for success under fire. Maybe Al Pacino said it best in The Godfather: “You’re not a wartime consigliere.”
Up to now he has been incredibly loyal, willing to fall on his sword time and again, and that loyalty has been returned by the current administration. Kathryn Jean Lopez expects that to change now that he’s leaving government service:
I can picture it all now. The Tenet press conference with Howard Dean’s group and MoveOn were he announces that Bush is a failed leader. The October surprise book where he blames everything wrong with intel on W., Condi & the Pentagon.
Let’s hope not. Quite frankly, anything he says only reminds people who was in charge during the worst intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, and while that may be (somewhat) unfair to Tenet personally, it has to inform everything he says from this point forward.
Addendum: The Washington Post’s CIA sources, unnamed but apparently on the record, claim that Tenet really resigned for personal reasons and was not forced out by the Administration — at least for now.
UPDATE: Michele Catalano has found many other reasons for Tenet’s resignation around the blogosphere. I like the one that said Elvis made him do it. (via Instapundit)