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The Acting Director of National Intelligence is a political hack

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Watching the Acting DNI, Maguire, testify this morning was painful.

It turns out that the man who runs the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States of America is just another squirming, mealy-mouthed bureaucrat. Afraid of saying anything that could get him in trouble with his bosses, he dodged and weaved, hiding behind words, trying his best not to say anything at all.

Two of his favorite words were “urgent” and “prudent.”

He determined, he testified under oath, that he did not think the whistleblower’s complaint rose to the level of “urgent.”

Consider: at stake, in the whistleblower’s complaint, was Who will be the next President of the United States. At stake, too, was the integrity of the current President of the United States, who stands credibly accused of blackmailing a foreign leader in order to boost his (POTUS’s) re-election chances by smearing his [possible] opponent.

Not “urgent”??? Seriously?

Then there’s “prudent.” Maguire valued being “prudent,” according to his testimony, more than he valued following the law. The law says that the DNI shall hand over whistleblower complaints to the relevant Congressional committees. But Maguire thought it would be “prudent” to first check in with his executive bosses in the White House, to assure him that was okay. 

The law does not say that the DNI shall turn over whistleblower complaints to Congress provided that the White House first gives him permission. The law doesn’t say that at all. Yet Maguire thought it would be “prudent” to ask the White House if it was okay for him to do his job, as mandated by law.

That is the action of a timid, befuddled, frightened bureaucrat. You can almost hear his inner thinking: Uh oh, shitstorm. I better ask the White House if it’s okay for me to tell the Congress about the whistleblower. I don’t want to get fired; I don’t want to get into trouble; I want to return to fulltime government work when this Acting DNI gig is up.

This is the man who runs the U.S. intelligence apparatus? A sniveling, worried office worker? He’s more like someone out of a Dilbert cartoon. Maguire is a typical career bureaucrat: all his life, he’s received orders from above, which he then relayed below, trying to straddle fences without alienating anyone. (If you’ve worked in a large organization, as I have, you might have some empathy with him.) No great moral decisions were required, no deeds of courage, no bravery. Maguire may well have been brave on many occasions when he was a Navy SEAL; but once he entered government politics, he discovered the “prudence” of not rocking the boat.

Sadly, Maguire found himself, for the first time in his career, in a position where he was morally required to put country and law ahead of career and “prudence.” Maguire weighed the balance, and decided in favor of career and “prudence.” He had the opportunity this morning, in front of that committee, to redeem himself—to declare in favor of country and law. But that would have jeopardized his future government career. So he wouldn’t. Indeed, Maguire wouldn’t even say whether or not Trump gave him orders about his testimony. He hid behind that old chestnut, “executive privilege,” which is the White House equivalent of taking the Fifth. Maguire couldn’t even bring himself to disagree with Trump’s characterization of the whistleblower as a “political hack.”

If Maguire wants to know what a “political hack” is, all he has to do is look in the mirror.

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