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Panetta And The Pros, Cont'd

Les Gelb offers a (much fuller) variation on a point I made yesterday, which is that having been an intelligence "professional" isn't necessarily a predictor of success at the CIA. George Tenet was a longtime "pro," but his tenure--though it had some successes--was mostly a disaster. Adds Gelb:

Before others join them, they would all do well to scrutinize the history of past appointments of pros and non-pros. I would say that the non-pro defense secretaries Clark Clifford and Mel Laird were every bit as good in their handling of the Pentagon and of the Vietnam War as the highly experienced and professional Bob Gates is in handling Iraq and his present duties. George Shultz and James Baker, who had no particular backgrounds in foreign affairs or the State Department, served just as ably as secretary of state as did Henry Kissinger. As for the CIA, outsiders like John McCone performed about as well as the ultimate professional, Richard Helms.

Anyway I find the intensity of interest in this pick--especially the process question of which Senators were notified and which weren't--a little curious. The far more important and interesting question is what policies Obama will hand down to the CIA from on high, particularly when it comes to whether we will continue a policy of renditioning terror suspects to other countries for "interrogation." Panetta is a hard-liner against torture but he was present at the creation of the rendition practice under Bill Clinton in the 1990s--but it's Obama's call anyway, not his.

Also, if the instant, obsessive bloggy news cycle means there's going to be a mini- daylong controversy every time Obama fails to kiss properly the ring of every committee chair he is in for a long, long presidency.

--Michael Crowley