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When one of “the adults” throws a temper tantrum

Former CIA director’s tweet sends the wrong signal about fellow Americans


Gen. Michael Hayden testifies on Capitol Hill in 2006. Associated Press/Photo by Gerald Herbert

When one of “the adults” throws a temper tantrum
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For years, I’ve wondered what journalists and other influential liberals are doing on Twitter. They treat the social media network as if it’s some kind of private clubhouse where they talk to each other freely, blissfully unaware that they are confirming everyone else’s worst suspicions about how elites think.

“I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career,” Edward Luce, an author and the associate editor of the Financial Times, announced recently. “Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.” Suffice it to say, Luce’s comments aren’t surprising—it should be abundantly obvious that the mainstream media is a completely broken institution, and that it profits by creating political conflict. And, speaking of Twitter, you can scroll down and find a number of prominent financial consultants and other notables purporting to agree with Luce—not to mention some 75,000 people who “liked” the tweet.

This was all bad, but what really raised eyebrows was when former Gen. Michael Hayden chimed in to say, “I agree. And I was the CIA Director.” (Hayden got 124,000 “likes.”) To be clear, if your job is studying violent ideologies or threat assessment and you conclude that “today’s Republicans”—whatever that broad category is supposed to mean—are more “nihilistic, dangerous and contemptible” than ISIS, Boko Haram, or Al Qaeda, you are completely consumed by politics or very bad at your job. (And there’s a substantive case for criticizing Hayden’s job performance, as he was also the head of the National Security Agency during 9/11.)

Aside from saying any number of crazy things on Twitter in recent years, Hayden also put his professional reputation on the line in the fall of 2020. As social media networks were scrambling to censor the news of Hunter Biden’s laptop—which contained voluminous piles of information on Hunter’s copious drug abuse, corrupt deals with foreign governments implicating his father, pornographic videos, and sexual abuse of trafficked women—Hayden was one of 50 senior intelligence officials who signed a letter much trumpeted by the media declaring the laptop “Russian disinformation.” In truth, their letter was disinformation.

However, pointing out that Hayden defines “nihilistic, dangerous, and contemptible” in an entirely self-interested manner doesn’t make his remarks any less irresponsible and dangerous. If Republicans are worse than ISIS, how does that imply they should be treated? Should we urge counterterrorism operations against ordinary Republicans upset by what their local school board is doing? Spy on their communications en masse? Of course, America’s “national security” establishment is already doing those things.

Trump was the first major politician, let alone president, to question the judgment of our national security establishment.

When Joe Biden was elected, there was a common media refrain. Luce’s Financial Times declared, “The grown-ups are back in charge in Washington.” CNN said, “Joe Biden's message to Vladimir Putin? The adults are back in charge.” Even Vogue got into the act, “Joe Biden’s Cabinet Picks Send a Clear Message: The Adults Are Back in Charge.” (Because nothing says the “adults are back in charge” quite like filling executive agencies with nonbinary drag queens who embrace polyamorous relationships that involve pretending to be dogs.)

For all the complaints about Trump—and I’m sympathetic to a number of them—comments such as Hayden’s really make it obvious how he got elected. I’m 46 years old, have been actively covering politics professionally for nearly a quarter of a century, and I don’t ever remember the “adults being in charge.” They certainly weren’t when Gen. Michael Hayden and his ilk were sleepwalking America into two decades of horribly mismanaged foreign wars that were used to justify the considerable erosion of constitutional rights at home.

Trump was the first major politician, let alone president, to question the judgment of our national security establishment. I don’t think Hayden took the unsubtle, Trumpian criticism of his role in America’s failed international conflicts very well, not that it matters much. Despite the obvious failures, the national security establishment hasn’t really changed on account of Trump. For example, Hayden is still on the board of The Atlantic Council, which is probably America’s most influential think tank on foreign affairs.

And this, despite the fact you can log on to Twitter and see him regularly demonstrating so little compassion for tens of millions of Americans frustrated by the direction of the country—a path he himself had an outsize role in putting us on—that he thinks Republicans are worse than terrorists.

Suffice it to say, I could level my criticisms of Hayden and America’s foreign policy establishment in much more colorful and exacting terms, but I sincerely hope Hayden, and so many others in similar positions, see how this politically motivated hostility harms the country as a whole and is a mirror image of what they claim to oppose. And I pray that all Americans fighting for the soul of our nation are as reflective about our own failures as we are quick to blame others.


Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.


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