Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Obama tabs Leon Panetta to head CIA

Meet Obama's pick for the CIA. He should look familiar, as he is most famously know for coming in and serving as President Clinton's Chief of Staff in July of 1994. Panetta came in to a White House that many viewed as having gotten out of control and having no discipline under Mack McLartyand whipped it into shape.

But that's not why Obama picked Panetta. This pick is already getting slammed by many on both the left and the right. The conventional wisdom seems to be this is a "desperate" pick and Panetta is out of his league, because he has no intelligence background. These critics are missing the point.

Obama picked Panetta for one reason and one reason only: Torture. Panetta has been as vocal an opponent of Bush and Cheney's "advanced interrogation techniques" as you can find. On top of that, he's got a reputation for not only speaking truth to power, but of standing up and doing what is right. Panetta served as Director of the Office of Civil Rights under President Nixon. Nixon had promised southern delegates he would stop enforcing Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, but Panetta kept pushing them. That conflict led to Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Robert Finch, and his assistant secretary refusing to fire Panetta when the White House pressured them. Panetta soon resigned, but that story is an example of the man's integrity and belief in civil rights and the rule of law.

Obama is sending a message to the world with the pick. Even our intelligence agencies will respect the law.

I like it.

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