Tuesday, January 06, 2009

'Some Are Questioning Leon Panetta's Lack of Intelligence'

Is Barack Obama stepping back from Leon Panetta? Some curious statements at a media briefing this afternoon, as well as an amusing question.
Question: Some are - some are questioning Leon Panetta's lack of intelligence - lack of experience on intelligence matters. Sorry about that. I know this is tricky for you since you haven't announced it yet, but what does he bring to the table for you?

Obama: Well, as you noted, I haven't made - haven't made a formal announcement about my intelligence team.

(cell phone rings)

Obama: That may be him calling now... finding out where it's at.

Obama: I have the utmost respect for Leon Panetta. I think that he is one of the finest public servants that we have. He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity.

As chief of staff, he is somebody who - to the president - he's somebody who obviously was fully versed in international affairs, crisis management, and had to evaluate intelligence consistently on a day-to-day basis.

Having said all that, I have not made an announcement. When we make the announcement, I think what people will see is, is that we are putting together a top-notch intelligence team that is not only going to assure that I get the best possible intelligence unvarnished, that the intelligence community is no longer geared towards telling the president what they think the president wants to hear, but instead are going to be delivering the information that the president needs to make critical decisions to keep the American people safe.
Still, one can only imagine despite criticism, an announcement is a mere formality, and it's unlikely Panetta will face much, if any, resistance.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden are defending the selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

Members of Congress have voiced surprise and skepticism over the choice, but Panetta isn't expected to face serious opposition when the nomination reaches the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Among those caught by surprise yesterday was the incoming committee chairwoman, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. After his name surfaced, she expressed skepticism about his qualifications -- as did Kit Bond, the ranking Republican on the committee.

Feinstein's office says Obama called her today and apologized for not keeping her informed on the selection.
Meanwhile, for the second day in a row, Feinstein bucks her own party.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) broke with her party’s leadership Tuesday in calling for Roland Burris to be seated in the Senate once his paperwork is signed by the Illinois secretary of state.

Feinstein, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said that not allowing Burris to be seated could broadly undermine future gubernatorial appointments.

“I can’t imagine the secretary of state countermanding a gubernatorial appointment,” Feinstein said. “The question, really, is one in my view of law. And that is, does the governor have the power to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? And the answer is yes.

“Does that affect his appointment power? And the answer is no until certain things happen.”

She added if Burris isn’t seated “it affects gubernatorial appointments all over the country.”

Feinstein’s break with her party’s leadership is the latest headache for congressional leaders, who blocked Burris Tuesday morning from being sworn in because of the cloud surrounding Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor arrested last month on accusations of selling Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

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