Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

Blessed are the gatekeepers, for theirs is the power to getting things done.

If President-elect Obama thought that changing the way Washington works was going to be a breeze, he got his first lesson in comeuppance with his selection of Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency. His mistake wasn't the choice per se but rather not checking with the gatekeepers, the Washington power brokers pertinent to this decision. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the incoming chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was surprised by the pick and complained that she wasn't consulted. That's one gatekeeper with ruffled feathers. Another gatekeeper not reckoned with, and therefore not terribly amused, was the outgoing chairperson Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Through an aide, the long-serving member of the Intelligence Committee let it be known that while he "has tremendous respect for Leon Panetta" the aide said that Senator Rockefeller "believes the CIA director should go to someone who has significant intelligence experience and someone from outside the political world of Washington DC."

Had these gatekeepers been consulted prior to announcing the selection, I suspect their tone would have been more conciliatory and supportive. Certainly, we would have fewer ruffled feathers.

Even Senator 'for two more weeks' Joe Biden conceded it was a "mistake" in not consulting the Senate's gatekeepers before tapping Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

"I'm still a Senate man and I always think this way," he told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress."

Yup. It's always good to talk to those blessed gatekeepers. In doing so, President Obama will likely get his way more often than not but ruffle their features by pulling surprises seems like a recipe for not getting things accomplished. Blessed are the gatekeepers, for in their hands is the power of the gavel. Some aspects of Washington, it seems, will never change.

Tags: Congressional Gatekeepers, Leon Panetta, President-elect Barack Obama, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Jay Rockefeller (all tags)

Comments

20 Comments

Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

And they're talking about "damage control."

Yeesh.

by esconded 2009-01-06 06:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers
I'm sorry,
But it makes sence to talk to congress about appointments and have them fully involved in the selection process. Isnt that one thing that we've bitched about with Bush, how he unilaterally does whatever he wants?
by anujtron 2009-01-06 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers
Usually it makes sense. However, in this case the Senators who are fussing the most are also the ones who let Bush get away with illegal wiretapping (Rockefeller knew from the beginning and did nothing) and torture (DiFi has written in support of torture in "extreme" cases). Obama is sending a clear message that those who let Bush slide on his worst offenses against American principles will not be welcomed into the process, and I believe he's got it right.
by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 07:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

That strikes me as wishful thinking.  Obama is pragmatic and he knows that making enemies will make it harder for him to pass his legislative agenda.  Much as we might like him to be, he's not some moral crusader who will go around shaming the Bush enablers and making them sit in the corner.

If the intent was to send a clear message, why did he call Feinstein and apologize?  Seems like that would mess up the clear message.

by Steve M 2009-01-06 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

In a superficial way it may undercut Obama's message to apologize to DiFi, but he still cut her out of the process. I doubt she missed it.

You're right, though. Barack is indeed a pragmatist and the apology proves it. It was necessary because he has to maintain good relations with Dem senators if he hopes to get anything accomplished. However, the fact that he chose Panetta without consulting her stands on its own. He knows the proper protocol yet he ignored it deliberately. It spoke volumes.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-07 07:23AM | 0 recs
Torture

IOKIYAR

Apparently the senator has two different standards for asserting her perception of senatorial privilege:

Dianne Feinstein (D) on the confirmation of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

As for torture, maybe she's sweating a bit:

Prosecution...

(it's okay if you're a republican)

by Michael Bersin 2009-01-07 01:43AM | 0 recs
I think the leak happened before

everybody was consulted and notified.  Someone leaked this info to the press BEFORE the Obama team told the Senate.

Someone was trying to derail this pick that's for sure.

IMO, Obama has FAR MORE important things left on his plate than to worry about this gaffe which has been rectified.

by puma 2009-01-06 06:59PM | 0 recs
Jay Rockefeller: Dumbass
...the aide said that Senator Rockefeller "believes the CIA director should go to someone who has significant intelligence experience and someone from outside the political world of Washington DC."

And with that, Jay Rockefeller has proven he has absolutely no clue. CIA pros like the Panetta pick because they know CIA needs a strong political insider who can go to bat and stand up for the agency.

JRock is a boob who should immediately be stripped of any Intelligence Committee assignments. Get him out of the way. Perhaps they can appoint him to the Committee to Locate the Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin, and "clean" coal.
by Spiffarino 2009-01-06 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

does anyone think, barring outright scandal, that obama will not get a single pick he wants, regardless of who they are?

i think you guys are delusional to even think that, and i think obama knows it.

denying a pick without actual scandal is fairly rare, and obama doesn't seem like the kind of guy to be trifled with.

he has a bully pulpit and i think he knows exactly how to use it to make people look like asses without going to far in saying it.

hence why feinstein is making lovey dovey today.

bottom line, i don't think obama gives a fuck what they think and i'm pretty sure he's gonna get what he wants in the interim, one part of the government has good approval ratings, and it isn't congress

by theninjagoddess 2009-01-06 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

i don't think obama gives a fuck what they think

That would be a mistake if that's the case which I don't think it is. Bush thought that Washington was unipolar. It isn't. It's multi-polar and to a degree if you led people to believe that they are involved in the decision-making process then they become your allies and not a gatekeeper.

Obama has many talents, one of them is his ability to cajole. He should employ it fully.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-06 07:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

oh i'm sure he'll be nice about it, but bottom line.
 if obama has his mind set on someone, barring a real reason, i doubt he's going to change his mind because diane doesn't like them.

that's my point.

and i very seriously doubt any senate democrat is gonna publicly try to stop an appointment by voting against it.

by theninjagoddess 2009-01-06 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

The one appointment that worries me is Admiral Dennis Blair for DNI. I am still reading up on it but it appears that Admiral Blair didn't follow orders on a mission to Indonesia in 1999 when he was sent there to discuss the situation in East Timor. A number of Indonesia-centric human rights blogs are up in arms on the appointment.

I don't think Obama is going to have a problem getting his personnel in place but I do hope this was a lesson learned. It pays to involve people in your decision making.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-06 07:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

F her...  

Its one thing to get pissed... its another to make a public spectacle about it.     I hope a big old primary challenge is headed both there way... knock those egotists down a few notches.

by yitbos96bb 2009-01-07 04:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

There is no President so popular that he can just say "screw Congress, I don't even have to pretend to care what anyone thinks."  No, of course they're not going to vote down his cabinet picks, but somewhere down the road there will be a close vote where he needs a favor.

And Obama understands this, which is why it is very unlikely that this was any kind of unintentional snub.  It would have been easy to call up Feinstein in advance and solicit her views, even if you never had any intention of following her advice.  There's no downside, and it doesn't seem like Obama's style to piss people off just cause you can.

by Steve M 2009-01-06 07:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

I think you're correct on all counts. However, I do believe this tactic was intended to send a message to Feinstein and others who let Bush off easy.

Maybe I'm wrong...I hope I'm not.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-07 07:27AM | 0 recs
It seems highly unlikely

that you have a substantive conversation with #3 on a committee, and "forget" to talk to #1 and #2. Note that he did not bypass the committee entirely, which would indicate that this was some sort of oversight.

DiFi was out of the loop because she was being kept out of the loop, at least temporarily. I do think the leak was a mistake, and Obama might pay for it further down the road. Or he might not - Feinstein seemed to unruffle fairly quickly, and she may see no percentage in holding a grudge.

by Neef 2009-01-06 08:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

Unfortunately, you have to make peace with that old hag. That is the way of Washington. I hate the whole seniority concept of the senate. It should be based on merit who gets to chair committees.

by Pravin 2009-01-06 09:17PM | 0 recs
How dare you call DiFi a hag!

She's a dried up elephant gray bag of ass. Big difference.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-07 07:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

Anyone else read this and REALLY feel like a strong primary challenge to Feinstein and ROckefeller for being so juvenile and arrogant.   Jay and Diane... GROW UP!  Act like adults... remember where you come from... Diane - you were put into position by being in the right place during a horrific tragedy.... Jay - well Nepotism and name recognition are GRAND!

by yitbos96bb 2009-01-07 04:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Blessed Are the Gatekeepers

You are definitely not alone. You're probably not in the minority, either.

by Spiffarino 2009-01-07 07:30AM | 0 recs

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