I think I’ve been a fair observer, during these past few months, of President-elect Obama’s Cabinet choices and other administrative decisions. For the most part, it’s safe to say that he’s made wise choices, supported by mountains of solid evidence of the designee’s qualifications.

But! No matter how many times or ways I shake this out, I can’t make sense of Leon Panetta over at Langley.

It is not to say that Panetta has a lackluster political résumé. As President Clinton’s chief of staff for nearly three years and an elected congressman from California for 16, his time in Washington has been well-documented. Obama’s transition team even praised the Washington insider for his managerial skills of complex agencies, coupled with his ability to balance budgets, manage people, etc.

However, at no point during the 20-plus years he spent inside the Beltway did Panetta participate in an intelligence organization or hold a spot on a related congressional committee. Without pertinent experience in intelligence, many congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle fear that the problems contracted from appointing a CIA outsider could repeat themselves. I tend to agree with those assessments.

Further, as a candidate, President-elect Obama was forced to fight allegations of elitism, which antagonists claimed would interfere with his ability to be a team player. Could this nomination be a glimpse of the realities some individuals feared? Not necessarily, but when he neglects to inform even the new Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, trouble is not far behind. This is especially hard-hitting when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) followed the announcement with a statement of surprise and disapproval over the pick.

Although I have found many of the next president’s selections commendable, this choice simply seems uninformed and poorly thought-out. Few people — including the individuals who will work closely with the new CIA director — seem to know or can explain why Panetta was selected for this position. Stay tuned, because I don’t think the final page has been written on this intelligence brief …


Visit www.armstrongwilliams.com .