Former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden revealed that the international intelligence community is flummoxed by America right now, but individual relationships within that community remain strong, during his Chancellor’s Lecture Series discussion with Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and Distinguished Visiting Professor Jon Meacham Thursday night.
Zeppos recognized that Hayden, who served in senior leadership roles in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, was likely glad to be out of government. “Say that, after our current president serves a four- or eight-year term, the next person says, ‘Mike, I need you to turn this thing around. I’ve read your thesis on globalization and incoming inequalities, and I want you to serve,’” Zeppos asked. “Would you do that? How long would it take to change things?”
Hayden demurred on saying whether he’d serve but used the opening to discuss problems with President Donald Trump’s approach to the world—the theme of Hayden’s new book, The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies.
“At the United Nations two days ago, he says we’re against globalism,” he said. “That’s like saying, ‘I hate gravity.’
“We’re losing time—wasting time pretending we’re going to make it all good again. We’re going to make steel again and talk about coal. A leader needs to come in and use the bully pulpit to unite us and begin to get on with it.”
Perhaps the most applause of the evening came when Meacham mentioned that Hayden served with Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and asked for a character assessment.
“There could not be a better American for this task,” Hayden said. “He is incorruptible. We’re blessed that he’s got this. Whatever he says, that’s it.”
In addition to leading the CIA and NSA, Hayden was the country’s first principal deputy director of national intelligence and the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the country. In August, he joined 12 other former senior intelligence officials in signing a letter of support for former CIA director John Brennan after a White House decision to strip him of his security clearance.
Hayden is currently a principal at the Chertoff Group security and risk management firm and a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
Other Chancellor’s Lectures Series speakers this fall include oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University, on Nov. 1; and Temple Grandin, autism activist, prolific author and professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, on Nov. 29.
The Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Lecture Series strives to connect the university and the Nashville community with intellectuals who are shaping our world. For more information about the series, visit the Chancellor’s Lecture Series website, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Nick_Zeppos on Twitter.