The Corner

The Panetta Choice

So Leon Panetta seems a slightly odd choice to head the CIA.  Why him?  Well, drawing a few conclusions from this New York Times account, Obama had a hard time finding anyone with recent intelligence experience because those people have had to deal with the real-world problem of the war on terrorism — and thus might be the target of lefty attacks.  Better, for confirmation purposes at least, to get someone who has just criticized from the outside:

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, was considered for 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.

So Panetta is clean enough for the job.  Of course, if he gets the CIA post, and he takes it seriously, in a few months he too will probably be un-confirmable by a heavily Democratic Senate.

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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