Why not? He named a Clinton crony with no foreign-policy experience to be Secretary of State, didn’t he?
Ace wonders if this is about having a dependable yes man at the top. Not really. It’s about having a guy at the top who’s untainted by “torture.” So untainted, in fact, that he’s also untainted by any intel experience whatsoever.
Given his background, Mr. Panetta is a somewhat unusual choice to lead the C.I.A., an agency that has been unwelcoming to previous directors perceived as outsiders, such as Stansfield M. Turner and John M. Deutch. But his selection points up the difficulty Mr. Obama had in finding a C.I.A. director with no connection to controversial counterterrorism programs of the Bush era…
Aides have said Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. head with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amidst criticism over his role in the formation of the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Members of Mr. Obama’s transition also raised concerns about other candidates, even some Democratic lawmakers with intelligence experience. Representative Jane Harman of California, formerly the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, had hoped to get the job, but she was ruled out as a candidate in part because of her early support for some Bush administration programs like the domestic eavesdropping program.
Here’s his chief qualification for the job, as near as I can tell. Whether this means Obama’s ready to junk the whole Bush interrogation apparatus or whether he merely wants Panetta as cover to quietly retain certain parts of it — or certain personnel, like Brennan, in lower-profile deputy roles — I guess we’ll see. Meanwhile, Brian Faughnan at Red State forwards an interesting passage from the CIA Library on Panetta’s spending priorities while head of Clinton’s budget office. Read it now, because the GOP’s bound to reference it at the confirmation hearing. Exit quotation: “Was Panetta wrong about the threats the U.S. faces in the 1990s, or was he simply too drive by green eyeshades over national security? Either way, the picture isn’t pretty.”
Update: The confirmation hearing should be fun: Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller, Democrats both, want to know why The One’s search for a torture-free nominee couldn’t uncover anyone with actual experience. Both of them evidently wanted Steve Kappes, whose recommendation reportedly led the agency to ban waterboarding.