Okay, well, I can't say that Leon Panetta is a great choice to head CIA, because I don't know CIA. But I can say that everything I've heard about the pick makes me happy.
First, Panetta is widely agreed to be smart, capable, and respected across the aisle. As Bill Clinton's former chief of staff he understands what Presidents need from CIA, and he's universally agreed to be an effective manager, even though he has no experience within the intelligence community.
Second, Panetta is on record vigorously opposing the lawless policies of the Bush administration, and Obama picked him knowing that. Along with his nomination of Dawn Johnson to OLC, Obama is clearly signaling that, not only will he abandon these policies, but he intends to publicly repudiate them. That's why his administration can't include anyone inside the blast radius. Very, very good.
"So why would the Obama team, which has been so careful and thoughtful in approaching the nominations process, have failed even to consult the two Democratic senators who have the most to say about intelligence? I don’t think this was accidental. I read something else into it. The bottom line is that Jay Rockefeller was an abject failure when it came to intelligence oversight. His term as ranking member and then chair of the Senate intelligence committee was one in which Congress generally, and the Senate in particular, failed to live up to their Constitutional mandate. The intelligence community was steered by the Bush Administration into a series of criminal escapades. Effective congressional oversight would have exposed these failings and brought them to heel. But the Rockefeller-Feinstein record was little short of disastrous. I’m delighted that the Obama team didn’t consult them."
Reportedly Obama and Biden have done what's necessary to assuage Feinstein, and she is said to favor legislation returning all agencies of the federal government to the rule of law. If only she and Rockefeller had acted like vertebrates over the last eight years I'd be impressed, but since I know they've signed off on everything, they're exactly the people that I want to be pissed off. Frankly, if they actually know what I think they know about the Bush administration's lawless policies, then they ought to be in very deep trouble. Instead of pissed off they ought to be very, very worried about how the disclosures will go -- and therefore very, very obsequious about what disclosures Pres. Obama might make. But being Democrats, however, Feinstein and Rockfeller have selected the election of one of their own as their motivation to finally bitch about something. Way to go, guys. Ugh.
Finally, it might actually be a good idea. Maybe the salty retired Admiral Dennis Blair will hold down the tough military professional role at DNI, and Panetta will be the intelligence community's capable CEO/COO. Taken together these appointments are better than they'd be apart.The real bottom line here, though, is that Obama is consistently appointing people who are on record as both condemning the Bush administration's lawless behavior and advocating the need to expose and repudiate it. That is change I can believe in.