THE BLOG
04/07/2014 06:42 pm ET Updated Jun 07, 2014

The Fear Behind the Sexism in Hayden's Attack on Feinstein

When U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein challenged the Central Intelligence Agency on its record of enhanced interrogation techniques, the nation's former chief intelligence officer responded to the constitutional clash between the legislative and executive branches by reverting to the time-tested sexist schoolyard taunt reminiscent of "she's a girl." The minute I heard former CIA Director Michael Hayden refer to Feinstein as "emotional," I rolled my eyes. This is what men do to dismiss powerful women all over the world. Then I laughed -- because clearly for all his intelligence gathering experience, Michael Hayden sure misread Dianne Feinstein.

Hayden's sexism failed on three levels:

First, Hayden insulted a powerful woman much admired throughout the country. For over 30 years Mayor-now-Senator Feinstein has had a reputation of being the schoolmarm, the tough and caring moderate in temperance and policy -- not the emotional one. Known as "Miss Goody Two Shoes" in San Francisco City Hall in the 1970s and 1980s, then-Mayor Feinstein had a no-nonsense attention to detail from exhaustive staff briefings to unannounced visits at underperforming city agencies. Elected to the Senate in the Year of the Woman 1992, Dianne Feinstein has always cultivated a reputation as a moderate convening others to the table, saying quite often "I think my greatest strength is finding a solution when there are opposing sides." Senator Feinstein even brokered the post-presidential primary rapprochement between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in her home, proving a calming force to a divisive campaign that had had its "emotional" moments from men and women. Thus Hayden's sexist attack not only misread women in power -- but misread the essence of Dianne Feinstein.

Second, Hayden raised questions about the feminization of intelligence sources and methods: does he view all women as "deeply emotional" or just those with whom he disagrees? Was the human intelligence he received tainted by that sexism in any way when the sources or agents are female? Considering his new corporate role cashing in on his years of government service, it would be helpful to know whether his sexist statement Sunday was a one-off or part of a deeper mentality. It appears to be deeper because Hayden is continuing the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld tradition of feminizing the opposition to torture.

We know that feminizing torture opposition is meant to convey swagger -- but no less a swaggerer than war hero (and torture survivor) Senator John McCain has condemned torture. And just last week Senator Augus King of Maine read the classified report and said the report illustrates how the CIA misrepresented the use of torture: "it's shocking." King also challenged former Vice President Cheney to be waterboarded if in fact Cheney believed that water boarding isn't torture. (As of this writing, the former vice president has not responded to the senator's offer.) If opposition to torture is for wimps, what of Senators McCain and King, President Barack Obama, and millions of Americans who hold that belief?

Three, the fear behind the sexism against Feinstein is Bush-Cheney administration officials cannot proceed unfettered in writing their version of history. Because that is the stake in all of this: writing the CIA report is writing the history of the war on terror.

Ever since "The Epic of Gilgamesh," men and women have attempted to write history in order to divine the meaning of life, morality and guidance for the future. It has been more recently said "history is written by the victors" and in the case of the covert war on terrorists and suspected terrorists, the Bush-era "War on Terror" leader are determined to write "The Epic of Bush and Cheney" and to keep it as secret as possible. Nevertheless, Senate investigators were able to glean parts of the history from within the CIA itself. Some in the CIA retaliated by attempting to seize Senate computers -- a rather "emotional" response I might add -- but failed to stop the Senate from moving ahead and releasing declassified parts of the CIA report to the public.

We cannot fully assess the CIA conduct until the latest chapter of history is released to the public. Declassify as much as possible -- then let the American people decide on a factual, not emotional, basis.