Barack Obama nominates someone to head the CIA whose major qualification is his inexperience. Even Democrats are dismayed. John Travolta's son, sadly, died. So in its crucial first half-hour this morning, the Early Show naturally devotes almost five minutes to the Travolta story while ignoring the controversy surrounding Leon Panetta's appointment. Far from revealing that even senior Dems like Senators Feinstein and Rockefeller have signalled their displeasure over the naming of Panetta, CBS' Chip Reid painted the pick as a sign of how Obama is briskly taking charge. Here was the sum total of the Early Show's discussion of the matter:
CHIP REID: He may not be Commander-in-Chief just yet. But Mr. Obama is wasting no time, on Monday picking former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to head the CIA, and retired Admiral Dennis Blair to be director of national intelligence.
And that was it. But when it came to the Travolta story, there was plenty of time to hear from a reporter on a Bahama beach, listen to a funeral director, and witness pathologist Cyril Wecht speculate as to the possible cause of death.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of the Panetta pick is this from the New York Times [emphasis added]:
Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As President Clinton’s chief of staff for two and a half years, Mr. Panetta regularly attended daily intelligence briefings in the Oval Office, and he has a reputation in Washington as a skilled manager and power broker with a strong background in budget issues. But he has little direct intelligence experience, and did not serve on the House Intelligence Committee during his 16 years in Congress.
So the president-elect passed over someone skilled in combating terror networks in favor of someone with little intelligence experience. Will Barack Obama sacrifice the security of the United States on the altar of waterboarding?