Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spy Chief

I happened to mention earlier this week, in discussing Bill Richardson's situation, that Jimmy Carter had been forced to withdraw his nomination of Ted Sorensen to head the CIA, in 1977.

Now, President-elect Obama has announced his choice for that job, and I find myself tempted to quote Yogi Berra for the second time this week, in wondering whether this is "dėjà vu all over again".

Leon Panetta, like Sorensen, had his largest involvement with intelligence work as a top White House staffer. Panetta was White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, from 1994 to 1997. John Kennedy did away with the chief of staff position during his presidency, but Sorensen was one of his senior aides.

The New York Times report to which I linked above, tells of a mixed reaction to Panetta, even among Democrats. Some question his lack of experience that is relevant to the job. That was one of the criticisms aimed at Sorensen, as well.

3 comments:

Terry L. Johnson said...

Most troubling is "why" Obama is looking outside of the professional intelligence community: fingerprints on agressive interrogation (I refuse to say torture) issue.

That he is more concerned about having perception of who might have known what in the Agency than utilizing skill generated over years of service is troubling.

Mr. Panetta is a capable bureaucrat. I fear that he is only that: a capable bureacrat.

Intelligence is serious business and our Nation deserves the best player available. Mr. Penetta is like the fat kid when you pick teams for dodgeball - the last one standing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Johnson. I find it appalling that Mr. Obama seemed to be unable to find ANYONE with a background in intell who could take the job? Surely there were a few people in the game before the GWOT cast a spotlight on rendition and enhanced interrogation (subjects on which I find myself in the bizarre position of agreeing with Alan Dershowitz - go right ahead.) If the sole litmus test for this position is whether the candidate favors enhanced interrogation and if the Dems will give a thumbs down to anyone who says "no, never," then we are shooting ourselves in the foot and if something bad happens on Obama's watch, he will be toast come 2012. What's wrong with Hayden? He was confirmed by Dems when he took the job.

schiller1979 said...

That brings up another tie-in to Carter's situation. Controversial actions by the CIA were also an issue in the mid-70s. Carter came into office with a supposed mandate to turn that around. His problem with the Sorensen nomination was one of the first of many situations when the idealism of his campaign rhetoric couldn't stand up the realities of the world.

Time will tell how Obama deals with similar realities.