A Republican until he switched parties in 1971, the 72-year-old Panetta would be the first Democrat in the post since William J. Perry left the post at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term. He served nine terms in Congress as a Representative from California and as chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget under Clinton. He is not expected to encounter any serious opposition to his confirmation in the Senate.
“From the beginning, Panetta had enormous credibility with the White House,” a former senior U.S. official who helped advise the Obama campaign told the Envoy last month. Citing Panetta’s Clinton White House credentials, the former official said that he has a “terrific record in Congress and did an extraordinary job from the moment he was appointed [as CIA Director] in developing the confidence of the Agency.”
Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst with the Clinton administration, said the anticipated appointment of Petraeus to head the civilian intelligence agency makes sense. Petraeus brings a ferocious intelligence, dedication to serving his country, and his experience reshaping the army to fight insurgencies to the job, Pollack noted. Rumors of the anticipated appointment initially perplexed some of Petraeus’ military colleagues, however, since the general is one of the most celebrated military officers of his generation and has devoted his career to serving the military: CIA-Pentagon relations have often been tense.
“The bottom line is, this is a man with a remarkable career in public service and he wants to do it for some time to come,” Pollack told the Envoy earlier this month. “I think that the CIA is going to be thrilled to have him. … It’s actually what CIA needs right now.”
The first four directors of the CIA from 1946 to 1953 were active-duty military men, and three others have served since then, including Admiral Stansfield Turner under Jimmy Carter and Gen. Michael Hayden in George W. Bush’s second term.
Too bad Gen. Petraeus won’t be bringing all the troops home from Afghanistan with him when he takes over at Langley.