Sunday :: May 7, 2006

Weakened White House Finds GOP Opposing Hayden As Well

by Steve

"This administration may be over."
--GOP pollster Lance Tarrance

The convergence of the Goss flame-out and Bush’s bottom-dwelling public support gives Democrats an interesting choice when faced with General Michael Hayden’s expected nomination tomorrow as new CIA chief. First, the New York Daily News reported today that what doomed Goss was the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board’s "thumbs-down" on his performance and the growing scandal about Kyle “Dusty” Foggo. Second, with this move to dump Goss and replace him with Mr. NSA Spying himself, Hayden, the White House looks forward to going after Democrats who oppose his nomination as being weak on terrorism. If this script sounds familiar and Rovian, it should, as just another example of how this administration looks for ways to attack from a position of weakness. But will this work one more time, in this case, with these poll numbers? Maybe not.

On the morning news shows, it wasn’t just Democrats who expressed concerns over Hayden’s nomination, but Republicans also, who are against an active-duty military man running the remainder of the intelligence operation and being under Rummy's sway. Aside from Dianne Feinstein, GOP House Intelligence Committee chair Peter Hoekstra and GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss have come out against Hayden. And as we said several days ago, Arlen Specter has put the administration on notice that he will use the Hayden hearings to hold Bush and Abu Gonzales accountable for the NSA spying program. So any effort by Rove and the White House to use the Hayden nomination for political purposes may fall flat.

And if a GOP pollster is telling folks that this White House may already be finished, in terms of its ability to influence policy, because of its crumbling support here at home and the possible loss of one or both houses of Congress, then shouldn’t the Democrats engage this White House over Hayden’s nomination? As we said several days ago, Hayden’s installation at the Agency, no matter how highly Jane Harman may think of him personally, means that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld will have total control over the intelligence community. And that is precisely what Hoekstra, Chambliss, and I suspect Specter are worried about. So Democrats have a choice here: let the GOP take the lead on this, and thereby neuter Rove’s plans, or step out in front by reopening the NSA issue front and center.

Many Democrats inside the Beltway are thinking ahead to next January, as evidenced by Nancy Pelosi’s talk already about their initial priorities. As we suspected, the Democratic leadership wants November to be here already, and may have decided to adopt a low-risk approach to challenging the White House from this point on, letting fellow Republicans pick fights with Bush out of political survival, rather than go directly at him and playing into Rove’s hands.

Image courtesy of ThinkProgress

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