The impending departure of Dan Coats as director of national intelligence is unfortunate. Whether the topic was Russia, Syria, North Korea or Iran, Coats consistently presented fact-based assessments even if they were at odds with President Donald Trump’s public proclamations. Coats’ downfall was that he did his job.
As his replacement, Trump has proposed Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe. That’s troubling — not least because Ratcliffe’s most pertinent experience is his six-month stint on the House Intelligence Committee. Ratcliffe, who was elected in 2014 and has been a vociferous Trump supporter, spoke to the president about the job five days before last week’s Robert Mueller hearing, then fiercely attacked the former special prosecutor during questioning. Apparently, the audition was a success.
We understand Trump’s desire to change Washington and the intelligence community. But Ratcliffe doesn’t have the chops to do that. The director of national intelligence doesn’t have much statutory authority to make changes so directors must use their influence, relationships and experience to avoid being outmaneuvered. Ratcliffe has none of that and will be considered just another toady.
Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican who served nine years as a CIA officer, is a better and more qualified choice. So are North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and even Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin, who at least has served as an Army intelligence officer.
The director of national intelligence must be able to tell the president the truth about the threats facing the nation. That demands a straight shooter, not a sycophant. — The editorial board