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Buckley on George Tenet

Consider just how miserable Tenet's failure has been to ratchet up support for his revisionist "tell-all" about life in the Bush administration. Typically, such a figure is embraced by leftists who hate the president and rightists who've grown weary of … Read More

By / May 2, 2007

Consider just how miserable Tenet's failure has been to ratchet up support for his revisionist "tell-all" about life in the Bush administration. Typically, such a figure is embraced by leftists who hate the president and rightists who've grown weary of the president's "radicalism" or odd brand of "Christian socialism," as Andrew Sullivan has phrased it. Now comes William F. Buckley, the grand poobah of American conservatism, repudiating the hefty, outgoing son of Greek immigrants (and the overseer of the worst national security disaster in U.S. history) as some kind of hanky-soaking emote-a-crat:

“People don’t understand us, you know,” Tenet started in. “They think we’re a bunch of faceless bureaucrats with no feelings, no families, no sense of what it’s like to be passionate about running these bastards down.”

If all that Tenet was saying was that a lot of people who do tedious work are underappreciated, he is right about the CIA, as also about garbage collectors and schoolteachers. There is a role for passion, clearly, when hunting down the kind of people who want to explode bombs in New York City. But a key to success in clandestine operations is sobriety. A friend analogized the point for me years ago: “A surgeon doesn’t look down on the ruptured appendix and say, ‘I’ll get you, you son of a bitch.’”

Jihadists have yet to meet their match if the CIA is run by guys like this. Forget waterboarding. If Sheik Khalid Mohammed wanted to unman his torturers, he should have wheedling them about their mommy issues.

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