June 03, 2004

Tenet "Quits"

So George Tenet was fired.

WASHINGTON - CIA Director George Tenet, buffeted by controversies over intelligence lapses about suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has resigned. President Bush said Thursday that Tenet was leaving for personal reasons and "I will miss him."

Okay, so I don't know if he was actually fired. They always just "quit" for "personal reasons."

Maybe Tenet really did quit for personal reasons. Of course that's possible. Maybe he's just rich and old and wants to hang out at the house and in the Bahamas. Who could blame him?

Here's some free advice, though, for the Bush Administration and every other adminstration that follows: When you fire someone who's embattled in controversy, just say that you fired him. It might not be nice, but it will earn you some points as well as protect the reputations of people who really do quit for personal reasons.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 3, 2004 05:53 PM

>>>"When you fire someone who's embattled in controversy, just say that you fired him. It might not be nice, but it will earn you some points."

This may be an alien concept to some people, but Bush wasn't trying to "earn points." That's why he let his friend resign with a modicum of dignity.


Posted by: David at June 3, 2004 06:30 PM


I don't try to earn points. The concept isn't "alien" to me. But I'm not a politician with people demanding I fire people either.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 3, 2004 06:47 PM

Apparently Mr Tenet said he wanted to quit before 9/11, didn't get around to it, and since then has had to stay since things were so hectic. Also he mentioned his son is leaving for college in the fall and he wanted one last chance to spend free time with him, given how his work schedule for the last 7 years has been nuts.

Given that, and that maybe he's not interested in sticking around for the results of the 9/11 commission, his desire to resign makes sense. Hmm unless you can show that his reasons are unsound, of course.

Posted by: Jase at June 3, 2004 07:03 PM

>>>"But I'm not a politician with people demanding I fire people either."

This is one of Bush's strongest points. He doesn't act like a politician.

Posted by: David at June 3, 2004 07:30 PM

Concur yr analysis re: quit/fired

Further... on second thought, no further.

Posted by: Sharps Shooter at June 3, 2004 08:55 PM

Michael -

I didn't see "fired" anywhere today.

I've posted elsewhere that we (the Great Audience of History) won't know the nuts and bolts of Tenet's actual failings or successes or what was the unavoidable result of the gelding of our justice/intelligence functions he worked under until after Bush's second term...most likely after the war, which could well push out the publication further.

There's been a lot of speculation about October surprises...and a lot of editorial opinion column inches devoted to dissecting politics that aren't there.

I propose that the October Surprise isn't going to happen at all - because the actual event is more than half a media construct anyway, and the objective issues unfolding right now look to break out of the background punditry fog long before October.

The economy is screaming along under the burdens of partisan doomsaying, punishing fuel prices, and just about flat inflationary pressures.

I had a damn good interview today. For a management slot with a local MANUFACTURER. Here in America. Anecdotal, I know...but felt good just the same. I may not land the job, but somebody will, and they are looking for dozens more floor workers, shipping & receiving types, and administrative folks. The mood was up.

Nobody noticed, but Iraq is all but sovereign a month early. All domestic functions save security are in Iraqi hands. Their president is amenable to most Iraqis...despite not being the hand-picked choice of either the U.S. or the U.N.

Just good luck there, eh?

Leafing through the current crop of environment stories I find that Bush's pro-active forest management plan will probably kill fewer trees this year than pine beetles and fungus blights - but the three together, combined with federal reform that allows landowners near federal land to clear their property lines may make a good start in diffussing the fire bomb that is the Western States...oh, and bring back the lumber industry in NoCal and Washington. Maybe. The last time our air quality was better Miles Standish had a thang going for Pochahantas. Fewer folks are buying SUV's and more are getting hybrids because they are making market choices. We will be drilling for more natural gas here in Utah soon ...actually opening old fields, but it's still work for the roustabouts.

I look at where we stand right now, and wonder just how far out on the limb the political chattering classes are willing to go to pitch an east coast liberal flip flopper and his party as a sane choice when put up against the accomplishments of the current administration. The current minority side of our national argument has framed their universe as a political kabuki construct for so long they have removed themselves from the arena of objective results.

It's not enough to care, or to feel, or to disagree. Not even if you own the press or TV. Not any more. I'm a long-time conservative, first-time Republican, and I don't agree with half the social policies of this administration. My reservations on that end are far, far outweighed by the discipline, conviction, and accomplishments on other fronts.

How strong does this administration feel? Can you name any other administration that dared to announce preliminary CUTS to government departments in the spring of a contentious (appearing) election year? How weak is the other side? Bill Clinton is scheduled for more public and private venue events during the DNC nominating convention than the nominee. And he's opening his book tour concurrent with the convention.

Bush plays poker, but he hires chess masters...and his opposition suffers from a bad case of hubris. I look forward to what the summer is going to bring. Everything but the terrorist attacks we are surely going to avert or suffer, of course.

The gloves will come off when the media offically bails on Kerry. The enemy will know then that their time is surely running out.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 3, 2004 10:00 PM

>>>>>>> "This is one of Bush's strongest points. He doesn't act like a politician."

I'm sorry David, but that's what they want you to think. The Bush Admin project this image -- Bush as a great, strong, moral leader who unites the American people.

It's too bad, but most people fall for this. It's assumed that in democracy, each person makes intellgicent decisions for themselves, and are not, for example, brainwashed by subtle progaganda....

Posted by: michel derrida at June 4, 2004 01:21 AM


It'll getcha' every time.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 4, 2004 01:38 AM

Bush isn't a politician? Allowing Tenet to resign for personal reasons is nothing less than a purely political move that also allows Bush to show loyalty to someone he likes.

Folks on the right have been demanding that Tenet be fired since the afternoon of September 11, 2001 (Michael Ledeen). Democrats have demanded that Tenet be fired beginning since we failed to find WMD in any quantity in Iraq and continuing through the CIA revelations in the 9/11 Commission hearings.

The political move is to allow him to resign for personal reasons - which no reasonable person can argue with - thereby disarming his critics argument ( "I told you so and now you proved me right.") if he had fired him.

If that isn't a political move, well, then...

Posted by: steve at June 4, 2004 03:56 AM

Except...If he were going to give the Right their wish Mr. Tenet would have been gone by January, 2002 and if he were going to knuckle under to the Left that doesn't think Sarin is serious Mr. Tenet would have been gone by December, 2003 instead of now. It's always hard to guess for the reasons that Mr. Totten indicates but in the absence of recent screwups or any pressure that had already been present in the past, my guess would be that "personal reasons" were indeed personal reasons.


The pragmatic question though is, "Does it matter why he is gone?" My interest is in just who will replace him.

Posted by: The Snark Who Was Really a Boojum at June 4, 2004 04:09 AM

Agreed that we don't really know and are wise to be suspicious. As to the timing, Bush can be both faulted and praised for his loyalty. In this case, his primary desire to be loyal to someone he trusts (however unearned that trust might be) was trumped by his political need to have someone's head roll. That the political need overtook the personal loyalty explains why now versus the timeline you suggested.

As to the replacement, do you think we will see an expansion of the Democratic filibuster of judicial nominees to include the Director of CIA? Will Bush leave McLaughlin in place, and all the lower level guys from Tenet's reign, until the election?

Let the games begin.

Posted by: steve at June 4, 2004 04:43 AM

More tea-leaf reading. I want to know who his replacement will be.

Posted by: Eric Blair at June 4, 2004 05:34 AM

No Senator would let ego or ambition interfere with our national security. No confirmation committee would allow itself to become a circus just to score political points when lives are at stake.

Wish I beleived that.

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 4, 2004 05:43 AM

On a less cynical note, I hope Condi Rice takes over CIA. Extremely sharp, already in the loop, but enough of an outsider to clean house. She's become a lightning rod, but who isn't in this administration?

Posted by: Mark Poling at June 4, 2004 05:46 AM

Everything is politics. Everything.

And even if it isn't, it can be made to appear to be.

Mother Theresa can take a moment to say "hello" to someone on the street, and someone who hates Mother Theresa can spin it into headlines proclaiming a huge political maneuver that will brainwash the masses with subtle propaganda.

This is one of Bush's strongest points. He doesn't act like a politician.

Unfortunately, he is a politician, and his inability to play the politics game does hurt him and, I'd argue, the nation as a whole because it leads to extreme polarization.

A house divided can not stand.

Posted by: bkw at June 4, 2004 07:14 AM

I'm sorry David, but that's what they want you to think. The Bush Admin project this image -- Bush as a great, strong, moral leader who unites the American people.

If Bush had fired Tenet, he would have been accused of pandering to the right wing. If he lets Tenet resign, he's accused of pandering to some other wing. He loses both ways; and that's why Bush does what he wants anyway, because such as yourself are too astute to be fooled.

When I listen to bloggers' analysis (especially the naysayers), I'm often reminded of the genius in the Princess Bride. No matter what option Bush chooses, he'd be screwed.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And the inability to recognize this simple fact doesn't show your astuteness, but your lack of it. A politically astute observer doesn't paint with a broadbrush all things as "image" simply because it confirms his preordained beliefs.

And no, he's not a uniter. He's a divider, because he does what he believes. Or are all the people who despise Bush just "image" too? (oh, I forgot. They're astute).

Posted by: David at June 4, 2004 08:15 AM

Mark Polling -

Wow. Barkeep, give me some of what he's having!

Seriously, though, I think that the replacement may come as a complete surprise. We don't need a "safe" choice for CIA, we need effective.

I believe that Tenet was retained for exactly that reason, in spite of the failures of his agency. Hard to look good at a cavalry charge riding a hamster and wearing a straitjacket, and I think that's a fair thumbnail of his predicament prior to 9/11. I'm looking for a housecleaning in CIA, State, and Defense. The heavy lifting is about to begin.

Have a fine one - got a day full of chores to get done.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 4, 2004 08:30 AM


I agree with you one hundred percent.

Bush's opponents want to play the fiddle and call the tune.

Bush done left the barn with his lady already. But the music goes on...echoing in an empty hall.

Would you agree that the last president to run so outside the 'conventional wisdom' loop of media and minority opposition was Lincoln? Reagan led at the same level of commitment, but played the PR game.

Back tonight.

Posted by: TmjUtah at June 4, 2004 08:37 AM

Tenet resigns. The anti-Bush leaners see a cover story that reflects poorly on Bush's honesty. The pro-Bush leaners sees signs of Bush's strength and the left's irrelevancy.

Neither side knows whether Tenet really resigned for personal reasons or was pushed out at the moment judged opportune by the President, but their biases tell them what the "truth" is.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I agree with David, or whoever said, "He's gone, who's next? The rest is static.

Posted by: bk at June 4, 2004 01:11 PM

When was the last time Bush "fired" one of his loyal subordinates due to political pressure?

I can't think of one, offhand. Karen Hughes left a couple of years ago, citing "personal (family) reasons," but nobody thought her explanation was anything more than the simple, unvarnished truth. Frankly, given the amount of heat Bush gets over Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, etc., I think there is good reason to believe that Tenet wanted to step down, and did so. He's served in a very difficult job for a number of tumultuous years.

If you think that Bush was trying to score political points here, answer me this--by accepting Tenet's resignation now, in the manner in which it happened, who would be more likely to vote for Bush this November? The opposition? His base? Undecided voters?

Posted by: Sam Barnes at June 4, 2004 03:54 PM

Who said Bush wasn't political? If he isn't then his handlers and manipulators certainly are. Those guys who seem to move Geoege from one stupid event or decision to another.

The Wash. Times says Tenet was fired. The story says Tenet irritated Bush by a challenging idea and
Bush say pack up and leave to Tenet. That's believable, but is it true?

Posted by: pete at June 5, 2004 03:57 AM

Maybe he was inspired by Karen Hughes. Maybe he just realized that whatever his service to his country might be, it could be done by others just as well. Nine years is a long time under constant pressure like that and separated from your family.

I hope he wasn't fired. I hope he was just fed up with the b.s. and realized that he was missing the most meaningful memories of his life.

My kids have been gone for about 4 years. I never realized the power of those memories you have of their childhood and teen years. Tenet has made the right choice, whether he made it for the reasons he stated or not.

Posted by: AST at June 6, 2004 03:02 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member


"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere

Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com

News Feeds


Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button


Tip Jar


Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn