Candidate Barack Obama won election in large part by vilifying President Bush and his approach to the war on terror. Now as president, Obama has endorsed virtually all of the same policies he demonized during the campaign.
Obama’s choice of CIA Director Leon Panetta as Defense secretary and of Gen. David Petraeus as CIA director underscore that shift.
In the Bush administration, Petraeus was a loyal defender of his aggressive approach to terrorism. And while Panetta made a half-hearted attempt during his confirmation hearings to describe Bush’s enhanced interrogation techniques as torture, he has turned out to be just as aggressive as Petraeus when it comes to wiping out terrorists.
Under Panetta, the CIA has launched at least 192 drone missile strikes, killing as many as 1,890.
Equally important, both Panetta and Petraeus are strong leaders who know how to manage sprawling bureaucracies. While Panetta had no experience in the intelligence world, he quickly won the loyalty of CIA officers by supporting them and showing he understood and appreciated their mission.
At the same time, both men understand how Washington works and how important it is to forge personal relationships with members of Congress and the press.
The CIA has had ups and downs with directors who came from the military. Adm. Stansfield Turner, President’s Carter’s choice as CIA director, was a disaster. A fan of technical collection, Turner never understood the importance of human spies and decimated the CIA’s clandestine service.
Robert (Rusty) Williams, one of Turner’s aides, spent his first few months at the agency looking into whether operations officers were having “nooners” or drinking at work.
“Rusty Williams asked [subordinates] who I was sleeping with,” a former station chief told me for my book "Inside the CIA: Revealing the Secrets of the World’s Most Powerful Spy Agency.” “People said they presume my wife.”
On the other hand, Gen. Michael Hayden, Bush’s choice as CIA
director, is seen as one of the agency’s best directors.
When it comes to the war on terror, Obama has zigged and zagged. He has said he will try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York, a move that shocked FBI officials.
Without knowing where the prisoners would go, the president has stated that he would close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
He and his homeland security officials have tried to use euphemisms to refer to terrorists, sending a message that the administration is not serious about hunting them down.
But in the end, with the exception of interrogation policies, Obama has continued the Bush approach to the war on terror. That includes Obama’s recent decision to try terrorist suspects in military tribunals after all. Unfortunately, with his apologetic approach to foreign affairs, Obama has not followed Bush’s lead in other areas.
If Obama had the leadership skills of Petraeus and Panetta, he would give credit to Bush for devising policies and an infrastructure that kept us safe after 9/11. But that is not in Obama’s nature.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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