Leon Panetta, a longtime congressman, former chief of staff to President Clinton and now director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Robert Gates as secretary of defense, according to the Associated Press.
Gen. David Petraeus, now leading the NATO effort in Afghanistan, will reportedly replace Panetta at the CIA. That’s an interesting move on several counts, confirming that Petraeus intends to follow the Colin Powell/George Marshall model and be a major policy player in Washington for years to come, while staying clear of electoral politics.
The low-key Gates, initially appointed by President Bush to replace the discredited and more flamboyant Donald Rumsfeld, has been the right man in the right place for a long time now. Nobody’s irreplaceable, and Panetta brings his own strengths and credentials to the job. But it’s hard to conceive of someone doing a better job than Gates did during a particularly challenging time in the Pentagon.
– Jay Bookman