Does Gen. Hayden Face a Confirmation Fight?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 4, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Bush says that he is supremely qualified, the president naming Air Force General Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as CIA chief. But critics are blasting that move. Count my next guest among them. She doesn't like his connection to the military and those NSA wiretaps. Dianne Feinstein is a member, of course, of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, good to have you.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Good to be there, Neil, but I think you have got it a little bit wrong. I haven't been blasting that choice at all.

As a matter of fact, what I have been saying is that he is a very competent intelligence professional, which I think the CIA needs at this particular point in time.

The only problem with it is, the CIA has traditionally — traditionally, I say — been a civilian agency. And there is concern by the fact that he's a four-star general.

But, you know, I think he's a superior human being. I think he would be very competent. I think he would restore morale and would do what he has to do within the agency.

CAVUTO: OK. So, you say there is concern. Could I be more direct, ma'am, and ask is there concern on your part? Do you have concern about his military credentials?


Ideally, I would like it to be a civilian. If you asked me — and I think it's true of everybody up here — give me three choices, Mike Hayden would be on everybody's three choices, probably a majority number one.

He is a totally qualified individual for this post. About 80 percent of intelligence dollars are controlled by the Defense Department. And there is concern about that.

Now, on the other hand, General Hayden can be independent. He can stand up. He has done that before. And, hopefully, he would be willing to do it again. And I think he will bring in some superb professionals to surround himself with, and particularly his number two, which I think is important.

CAVUTO: So let me ask you this, Senator. All things being equal right now, and the vote were tomorrow, how would you vote?

FEINSTEIN: Well, that's a hypothetical question. I know better than that. I am very...

CAVUTO: Would you be inclined to support him or reject him?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. I think this is a very good appointment. I want to get through the hearing.

There are going to be a number of questions. I think the NSA electronic surveillance will come up. I would anticipate that I would be supportive. And I want to be supportive. I think this is not a business- as-usual time. And we have to get on with it, and we should get this replacement in place as soon as possible.

At the same time, we need to do our due diligence. We need to ask the questions and get the answers. So, I would hope that Senator Roberts would schedule a meeting for confirmation, for the hearing, next week, so we could get on with it and get it done by Memorial Day.

CAVUTO: Do you fear, though, that any delay in questioning over his military background will, in fact, make things tougher on the CIA, and with the best of intentions, maybe some of your fellow Democrats, Senator, could be compounding this?

FEINSTEIN: No, I don't think so. I really don't. I think it's a legitimate question. I think it has to be put in perspective. And I think it is. He's superbly qualified. That's the bottom line of all of this.

CAVUTO: So, what does it matter that...

FEINSTEIN: The fact that he wears a uniform...

CAVUTO: What does it matter that he's in the military or in a uniform, right?

FEINSTEIN: Well, for the very reason I just told you. And that is that this is a civilian...

CAVUTO: Was it an issue for you when Stansfield Turner had the same role in the Carter administration?

FEINSTEIN: No. Of course, I wasn't here. And it wasn't this day. And there hadn't been this strong increase. You know, 80 percent of the intelligence dollars are controlled by Defense. For many, that's an issue. That's a problem.

CAVUTO: Well, that's a very good point, Senator. But, of course, then, we had the Iran hostage crisis, didn't we? I mean, you could look back then and say it was similarly dicey times. So, the world did not seem to have a problem with an admiral coming in and filling that job. Why a problem now?

FEINSTEIN: I'm not saying there is a problem. What I have said is, it's a concern.


FEINSTEIN: And, you know, it is a concern.

It may well end up being very de minimus. But as people discuss it on the Intelligence Committee, it's clear it's a concern for senators. I happen to think it's a subordinate one. I happen to think that this is a qualified man. He has management experience. He has run an agency twice the size of the CIA. He is a straight-shooter. He is a good man and, I think, can be an excellent head of the CIA and do what needs to be done.

CAVUTO: OK. Senator Feinstein, thank you very much.

FEINSTEIN: You're very welcome, Neil. Thank you.

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