The Obama team made what I consider to be a political masterstroke yesterday by announcing their selection of respected former Congressman Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

Although somewhat mixed, the reactions from the intelligence community have included a lot of praise for the Panetta pick. Even some neoconservatives are on board.

Former intelligence analyst Greg Treverton, now with the Rand Corporation, said Panetta’s experience as a former White House chief of staff might give him a unique understanding of the presidency and its needs for intelligence. “One of my experiences with people like Panetta who have been chief of staff is that they have a clear sense of what is helpful to the president that most senior officials don’t,” Treverton told me. “They get it. What he could do and couldn’t do. And that’s an interesting advantage Panetta brings. Knowledge of what the presidential stakes are like, how issues arise, and what they need to be protected from, for better or worse.”

Retired CIA deputy director for the East Europe division Milt Bearden said Panetta is a “brilliant” choice. “It is not problematic that Panetta lacks experience in intelligence,” Bearden e-mailed. “Intel experience is overrated. Good judgment, common sense, and an understanding of Washington is a far better mix to take to Langley than the presumption of experience in intelligence matters. Having a civilian in the intelligence community mix is, likewise, a useful balance. Why not DNI?”

Well, what could be the problem, considering that many successful past CIA directors have lacked direct intelligence experience (e.g. George H.W. Bush)?

3… 2… 1… Cue a tone-deaf, self-immolating Democrat shooting the Party in the foot:

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director,” incoming chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was cited by the Los Angeles Times. “My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

Yep, that’s right. As the Republican obstruction machine opposition in Congress gears up to turn some of Obama’s appointments into partisan political theater, the incoming Democratic chairperson of a key intelligence committee decides to publicly cast doubts on one of Obama’s key appointments.

Can’t we Democrats even wait until Obama is inaugurated before we start shooting ourselves in the extremities? Do these people even KNOW how politics is supposed to work?

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