Democrats are out for the kill. Republicans are on the defensive. Right?

Not exactly. When it comes to national security, many Democrats are still pulling their punches, even with Bush’s approval rating at an all-time low. Just take the issue of warrantless wiretapping. When the nomination of the man who masterminded the arguably illegal program, Michael Hayden, for CIA director comes before the Senate next week, Intelligence Committee Democrats plan to promptly change the subject.

According to Bloomberg News, “Democrats say they will focus their fire on Michael Hayden’s military background and suitability to head the Central Intelligence Agency…and won’t emphasize the nominee’s role in running a much-criticized eavesdropping program.”

Isn’t his role as chief wiretapper central to his suitability? Do we want a CIA chief who believes he’s above the rule of law? Is it politically advantageous for Democrats to let Republicans continue to dictate the terms of national security debates?

To reinforce the putrid status quo, Bloomberg quotes a former CIA hand-turned-professor saying: “The public seems to have concluded that the idea of listening in on people who want to blow up things in this country is a pretty good idea.”

Of course, if that’s how you phrase it. In fact, the public is split on the program. Americans disapprove of the way Bush is fighting the war on terror. And no one knows exactly who the Administration is listening on. They won’t tell us. And Congress won’t ask.

Hayden’s nomination would be the perfect occasion for Democrats to demand answers to some of these questions.