. . . Thursday June 3, 2004

Slam Dunked

CIA Director George Tenet has submitted his letter of resignation to the White House and he will step down in mid-July.

From President Bush: “Today, George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A., submitted a letter of resignation. I met with George last night in the White House. I had a good visit with him. He told me he was resigning for personal reasons.”

Of course the phrase in the announcement that will get the most analysis is personal reasons. The missed slam dunk on WMDs in Iraq, a series of (past and more importantly upcoming) reports that are critical of the organization, a recent leak battle with the Pentagon over the prison scandals in Iraq … who wouldn’t take this stuff personally?

But something tells me that the decision to step down didn’t first come up last night during a meeting with the President.

Former CIA chief Stansfield Turner on the move: “I think he’s being pushed out. The president feels he has to have someone to blame. I don’t think he would pull the plug on President Bush in the midst of an election cycle without being asked by President Bush to do that.”

It seems hard to believe that the timing of this move was unrelated to the Woodward book, the recent flap over Chalabi, interdepartmental debates, a growing frustration coming from Colin Powell’s State Department due to the faulty intelligence their man shared with the globe, and other related events.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to see how the Bush team would get any political benefit from this resignation. After all, they are selling it as a personal personnel move. To scapegoat or play the responsibility card would essentially require the White House to demand the resignation. The Buck Stops at George Tenets Personal Life is hardly an effective campaign slogan.

Concentration is important!