Kim Strassel has a good piece in today’s Wall Street Journal that paints CIA Director Leon Panetta as the fall guy in the Obama administration’s dilemma of trying to appease the blood lust of the nutty Left and the national intelligence requirements demanded of the CIA.
President Barack Obama fought hard for the former California congressman during his uncertain February confirmation fight. That’s about the last thing the president has done for his spy chief. Quite the opposite: If the latest flap over CIA interrogations shows anything, it’s that Mr. Panetta has officially become the president’s designated fall guy.
The title has been months in the making. Mr. Obama is contending with an angry left that’s riled by his decisions to retain some Bush-era counterterrorism policies. He’s facing Congressional liberals still baying for Bush blood. He’s hired Attorney General Eric Holder, who is giving the term “ideological purity” new meaning. Mr. Obama’s way to appease these bodies? Hang the CIA and Mr. Panetta out to dry.
Reversing prior promises not to prosecute CIA officials who “acted in good faith,” Mr. Holder appointed a special counsel with the ability to prosecute officials who acted in good faith. This was paired with release of a 2004 CIA report that the administration spun as more proof of agency incompetence. As a finishing touch, the White House yanked the interrogation program out of Mr. Panetta’s hands, relocating it with the FBI. With friends like these . . .
If Mr. Panetta has learned one lesson on the job, it’s that he’s alone. In the wake of the Pelosi blow-up, he took a stab at reconciliation with Democrats, trekking to Capitol Hill to tell the intelligence committees about a previously undisclosed (though hardly shocking) CIA idea for killing al Qaeda brass. His repayment was a letter, leaked to the press, from House Intelligence Chair Silvestre Reyes, claiming the new briefing simply proved the CIA had indeed previously lied to Congress.
There are several things to take away from this episode for those that read between the lines. First, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have company in their betrayal of the CIA and its Director. The Panetta emasculation is also a Nancy Pelosi operation. Second, Congress (read: Pelosi), which has had its rear end handed to it in the health care debate, wants some payback. How convenient Mr. Panetta is available. Wasn’t he the one that stood up to the Pelosi Hubris Brigades? Now that the President has been found to have legislative feet of clay, it is no surprise that the loudest point of contention between Congress and the Executive branch will be silenced. As Strassel notes:
Then came House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s full-frontal assault, claiming the agency had lied to her about waterboarding. This would have been an excellent time for some “vigorous” protection of the CIA, since agency documents flatly contradict the Speaker. But with his (Obama’s) domestic agenda in the hands of Congress, the White House was mum. It showed equal interest in defending Mr. Panetta against the threat of congressional investigations.
We may be witnessing the most politically unstable Executive Branch since Nixon, their gutlessness now exhibited by the humiliation of a long time Washington Democrat that actually dared to defend the nation’s security interests.