Leon Panetta, former House Budget Committee chairman, former OMB director, former White House chief of staff, and former California congressman has been nominated by President-elect Obama to be the next director of the CIA.
I've known Leon for more than two decades. If you're looking for someone from outside the agency who is an honest broker, a great inside player, and as good at dealing with Congress as there is, Leon absolutely is the right person for the job.
But Leon will add one more thing to the Obama administration: yet another very strong budget expert inside the cabinet room. While his primary responsibility will obviously be the CIA, we shouldn't discount the additional expertise he'll bring when he sets up shop again in D.C., or in this case Langley, VA.
David Corn, in a piece in this morning's Washington Post, looks at the Obama cabinet appointments and laments what he says is not the change he was expecting or that he says "we" were promised.
Corn is defining the word "change" improperly and, while he uses the word "we," isn't talking for what I'd be willing to bet is a majority of Americans. His definition -- progressives and liberals rather than centrists and conservatives -- is not what I heard Barack Obama say during the campaign. To me, "change," meant only one thing: Not George Bush.
Obama repeatedly and continuously talked about how electing John McCain would be another four years of George Bush, but electing him would produce the departure from current policies, fears, and disappointments people wanted. He provided some specifics, but what he was really promising was just the general idea that he wouldn't continue what Bush had been doing.
I thought this response by Greg Mankiw to this post by Paul Krugman was appropriate but incomplete. Appropriate, for the simple reason that Krugman is taking pot shots at those who served in the Bush Administration without any reference to evidence. Incomplete, for the equally simple reason that Mankiw has many more economists to consider in his comparisons where he does try to provide evidence.
Mankiw includes Larry Summers in his comparisons, recognizing that as Director of the NEC, he will coordinate all of the President's economic policy. Who were the directors of the NEC under President Bush?
While almost everyone who follows the federal budget has been focused on Peter Orzag's nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, Rob Nabor's nomination to be the budget deputy at OMB may actually be just as important to the success of the Obama plan.
For those of you who don't know him, Nabors is the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. That means that, with Nabors, the president-elect will have someone who not only can do the line-by-line review he wants (that is, after all, what the appropriations committee staff does for a living every year), he has someone who knows where every appropriated dollar is and, most important, how it got there.
Every significant addition to the Obama economic team is a good one: Summers, Romer, Geithner, Orszag. Let's hope they've got some better solution to the financial and economic crisis than firing money out of a cannon.