Is Lack of Experience Becoming a Mantra?

Although I have not supported Barack Obama, I’ve been committed to actually contributing to the process, instead of being bitter, because what’s done is done.  As such, I’m really trying to get behind what President-elect Obama is doing.  I’ve supported some of his economic appointments and I think he’s truly making an effort.  Also, I think there’s so much potential for this incoming Administration.  However, after hearing the news yesterday that the Obama Transition Team is likely going to appoint Leon Panetta as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I know that I cannot stand by and support this.

First of all, I don’t know who’s idea it initially was to name Panetta as CIA chief, but I can’t imagine it was someone with firsthand experience in intelligence or national security.  The evidence for this came today when anyone and everyone with knowledge of the US Intelligence Community voiced their disappointment of the news.  They weren’t alone either; many Congressional Democrats, including Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein also voiced their disapproval of appointing a politician to a national security post. 

But, any disapproval coming from anyone shouldn’t be surprised, because quite frankly, this is one of the most absurd appointments I have ever seen.  Indeed, this could be the most ridiculous appointment in the history of our nation, and that is saying a lot.  What’s most concerning, though, is that many people are starting to wonder whether or not this is what we should expect from the Obama-Biden Administration over the next four (or eight) years.  I can assure you that if this is an indicator of what is to come, it will definitely not be eight years until a replacement for Barack Obama enters the White House.

Simply put, this appointment is unacceptable.  What’s worse was Obama’s rationale for the appointment.  From the WSJ piece, this is what Obama said in response to the questions about Panetta’s appointment …

In his public comments, Mr. Obama defended Mr. Panetta’s qualifications, calling him “one of the finest public servants that we’ve had” who “brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, [and] an impeccable record of integrity.” As chief of staff to President Clinton, Mr. Panetta was steeped in international affairs as well as crisis management and “had to evaluate intelligence consistently on a day-to-day basis,” Mr. Obama added.

It was these comments that concern me the most, because President-elect Obama’s words make it sound as though he would rather a political official that’s qualified at bureaucratic management to run a very complex, vital intelligence agency that is critical to the national security of this country.  We’re not talking about the Department of Education or Director of the Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.  This is the nation’s lead intelligence analysis and spy agency, where the Director is in charge of the nation’s most critical intelligence assets, not to mention responsible for the lives of thousands of intelligence officers who put themselves in harms way everyday.  Further, I think we’ve seen in the last eight years just how important it is to get our intelligence right.  This is one of the most important tools that the President has to make critical, life-changing decisions, which lends insight as to why POTUS gets a special intelligence briefing every single day of his Presidency. 

In terms of the comments about Panetta having been a consumer of intelligence from CIA operations, this is even more absurd than the other comments.  This rationale is similar to me saying that since I am a consumer of healthcare services, I therefore should be able to do surgery on patients, or perhaps even be the Surgeon General.  The argument Barack Obama has made for Leon Panetta is laughable.

The fact is that Leon Panetta was a failed public servant and failed at Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton, which is why he wasn’t there for long.  Further, many national security and intelligence blunders happened under his watch, including two terrorist attacks and significant cutbacks in the intelligence budget, which led to the firing or reduced hiring of speakers of critical languages that we direly needed after September 11.  The policies that came across Leon Panetta’s desk while he was Chief of Staff actually set the Agency back years, and lives were lost as a result as we entered war, which he did nothing to help this country prepare for.  And finally, Leon Panetta has been a political official or bureaucrat his entire life, until recently where he has worked as a consultant and lobbyst, while lending his name to a non-profit organization out of Monterrey, California.  I thought Barack Obama said he didn’t want to be guided by Washington lobbyists and special interests, yet he has put a lobbyist who runs a special interest organization without any intelligence or national security experience whatsoever in charge of our nation’s intelligence operations.  This is downright scary.

I agree with Charles Krauthammer’s comments from earlier today where he mentioned how ironic it is that Democrats have lambasted the Bush Administration for blunders related to intelligence over the last six years or so, yet a Democratic President-elect has now selected someone who deserves a great deal of blame for previous intelligence blunders during the Clinton Administration in charge of the CIA.  Further, liberals have decried certain practices in interrogation by intelligence officers in recent years; however, the Obama Transition Team apparently failed to realize that it was Leon Panetta that created the current rendition policies that they are crying out against.  The irony is almost humorous, and I would laugh if this wasn’t such a critical issue. 

Quite frankly, I think President-elect Obama has indicated that he does not understand any of this.  Clearly, he has missed the importance of our intelligence operations.  He probably views US intelligence assets as nothing more than torturers and traitors.  He indicates as much by his complete disregard for the incredible amount of operational intelligence that has come out of operations at Guantanamo Bay, as he would choose to shut down that operation and release the prisoners and detainees there, rather than obtain information that could save American lives.  This truly concerns me.

Barack Obama could fail on every economic policy and could drive our country into another Great Depression, but we would still be here and we would recover.  However, if he fails on national security and defense matters, then Americans will die.  I don’t want my President making political decisions on these matters, and I certainly don’t want to see a bureaucrat that has no business being CIA Director responsible for the lives of people serving this country and putting themselves on the line for our safety. 

So, let’s see where we are with appointments now.  We have a Health Secretary that has zero experience in healthcare.  We have a Secretary of State who’s only foreign policy experience came from her husband’s foundation donors.  We have one of the most audacious and partisan politicians coming from the center of the most corrupt political operation in the country as the White House Chief of Staff.  Now, we’re putting a politician with absolutely no relevant experience as head of our nation’s intelligence operations. 

Not only is lack of experience becoming the norm under the Obama Administration, but now we’re to the point of making appointments that will actually endanger the lives of Americans and our allies.  Forget about the hypocracy of the Democrats; this is downright scary. 

This post was originally published on my blog, Mark to Market, at www.reiboldt.com.