General Michael Hayden is getting a warm reception from the Senate Intelligence Committee, who gets first dibs on his nomination as CIA director. But elsewhere on the Hill prominent Republicans are grumbling, led by House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert–pretty much the last person you’d expect to bash the Bush Administration. “I don’t think a military guy should be head of CIA, frankly,” Hastert sais yesterday. From sub-only Roll Call:
Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has come out against the nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA, calling the ousting of former Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) from the agency’s top post “a power grab” by John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.
Hastert’s opposition to Hayden is not based on any personal reservations about the nominee. Rather, Hastert is concerned that installing a top-ranking military official at the “CIA would give too much influence over the U.S. intelligence community to the Pentagon.”
Hastert’s aides later expanded on his comments. “The Speaker does not believe that a military person should be leading the CIA, a civilian agency,” said Ron Bonjean, Hastert’s spokesman.
Hastert also said Negroponte stopped by his office Wednesday and made no mention of the fact that Goss, who served in the House with Hastert for 16 years, would be stepping down as CIA director two days later.
“It looks like a power grab by Mr. Negroponte,” said Hastert.
Of course, the House won’t vote on Hayden’s nomination, so it’s safer for members, including Hastert, to criticize. And the Administration would clearly rather talk about the CIA and warrantless wiretapping than high gas prices, illegal immigration or the war in Iraq. But with his approval rating hovering in the low 30s, is another fight really what Bush needs?