When it was announced that Leon Panetta would be nominated to head CIA, I thought it was a mistake. I was blurring administrations. Who was this guy Panetta and what is he doing back in DC. Isn’t he heading some think tank in Monterey, California with is wife. Isn’t he in his seventies by now. Hey, wasn’t he the guy who was Clinton’s chief of staff during the Monica-thon. How’d he smell after all that?
Well, yep, same guy, and you know what. He smelled pretty good after the taint of Monica-gate. One of the few to have maneuvered around impeachment and keep his own reputation and dignity intact.
Also, one heck of a manager. he led OMB as well as the White House staff. He’s a former congressman, knows his way around DC and is not afraid to tell the president what he thinks. Too old and perhaps too wise for these games now.
So, what does a Panetta appointment tell us about the CIA and about Barack. Several things and here’s where it gets interesting. The CIA will be the subject of several investigations during the new administration. It blew it big time on Iraq, and even more so in its inability to speak truth to power to an administration that didnt hide the fact it wanted to cherry pick intelligence and go to war on false pretenses. So, the key thing here is for some reputation and image enhancement. Leon is a clean guy. No taint from Monica and no taint from Tenet/Cheney/Bush. GIve Barack a point here. CIA needs an outsider at this critical juncture to restore some semblance of integrity (oxymoron?)
Next the question goes to how Obama played this appointment with Congress, who has oversight responsibilities here and during the past 8 years was guilty of one oversight after another when it came to holding the CIA and BUsies accountable to the rule of law. Two things jump out at me here. First. Obama sent a clear message about torture. Panetta has spoken forcefully and clearly on the topic. No torture. No way. No how. People on the other side of this moral and constitutional issue, like senator’s feinstein and jay rockefeller better watch out. AS Rachel maddow said, they were on the wrong side of history here, and the fact they were not consulted on the Panetta nomination is not important. Fair enough. BOld move for Obama. I give him another point.
But, here is my concern having to do with the relationship between the executive and legislative branch during the next administration. The president-elect ignored the two highest ranking members of his own party on the very appointment over which they have oversight responsibilities. Bad form on Obama’s part. also scares me to think that Obama will not turn away from some of the “unitary” presidential powers that Bush/Cheney claimed for themselves during the past 8 years.
Let’s stay tuned.