Washington is full of people who know how to scramble up the ladder of power. But George Tenet, President Clinton's latest nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has set new records for both speed and elegance of ascent. Last week Republican Senators were all but telling Tenet he would be confirmed even before Clinton had nominated him.

On Wednesday morning, hours before he was to fly to Helsinki, Clinton was in a characteristic dither. Some White House aides recommended that he quickly nominate Tenet, 44, an amiable former Senate intelligence staff member who has been deputy CIA director since...

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