HAYDEN AGONISTES. On the question of how a more John Negroponte-influenced CIA under Michael Hayden influences the struggle over intelligence resources between that agency and the Defense Department, reports still differ fairly dramatically. (It's somewhat remarkable how uncertain the press's accounting still is for basic issues surrounding Porter Goss's departure and the likely future direction of the CIA.) As for congressional Republicans' notably tepid initial response to the announcement of Hayden's nomination, the default expectation should still be that Republicans will coalesce in sufficient numbers behind the nominee after some initial grumbling.

And this of course means that Democrats are not going to be able to avoid a nomination fight that in part consists of a fight over the President's illegal NSA spying program, however much the Republicans are puffing their chests with confidence that such a fight will redound to their political benefit. For the little it's worth, I'd say that Republicans may actually be right about that, and that Democrats need to take a stand on this issue anyway. The manner in which this program was enacted and has been justified is a bridge way too far for Democrats to duck for the sake of political expediency. It's precisely the kind of issue on which they really can't continue to sacrifice credibility through capitulation, even if their actual position is not in fact a clear political winner. You can only hope to gain that credibility by starting off with a clear understanding of what it is you actually believe. And some principles just require a firm stance, and a voicing.

--Sam Rosenfeld