The Panetta Pick: No More "Slam Dunk"s

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The true advantage of the pick of former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to head the CIA is a question of interface.

Most of the analysis of the Panetta pick has focused on the Beltway soap opera of why Senate intel czar Diane Feinstein wasn't given a heads up, and what Panetta's personal views on torture portend for future interrogations and potential for reform at the agency.

There are myriad institutional failures at CIA that need to be addressed... and whether Panetta really is the reformer to get in there and shake things up is an open question.

But the reality is that — whatever its failings — the CIA is going to guide Obama's decisions about war and peace. And as the experience of George "Slam Dunk" Tenet proved, a pliant pleaser of a CIA chief can lead a nation to ruin.

Panetta is not so far as I can tell a personal friend of Obama's. But he's got off-the-charts credibility, and experience as Chief of Staff managing unwieldy bureaucracies and synthesizing and presenting information to the president. Seen as someone who can give Obama a clear-eyed assessment of the nation's best intelligence, his nomination seems inspired.