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Obama's intriguing CIA pick

Justin Webb | 20:25 UK time, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

First: thanks so much to all who have left such kind messages.

I am deeply aware that our situation is hardly worth mentioning when compared with the suffering of other parents and other children. We brought our boy home from the hospital. And we can pay the bills.

Dave_h - for my money - hits the nail on the head with the simple fact that the US system is just so much more expensive, per capita, yet doesn't deliver commensurate results.

The challenge for Mr Obama is not to spend more but to spend more wisely and fairly.

I always thought his line about watching his mum haggle with the healthcare companies while she was dying of cancer was one of the more genuinely moving sections of his stump speech: it will be fascinating to see whether, in four years or eight, that situation is unthinkable here.

Meanwhile, the first really interesting and risky decision of the Obama presidency (alright - the second after HER) is the choice of Leon Panetta as the head of the CIA - a choice to be formally announced soon.

I remember meeting Mr Panetta some time ago and coming away with a sense of shock at how gentle and courtly he was - genial, relaxed, softly-spoken and solicitous in a manner that almost no senior public servant ever is (Andy Card would be the nearest, in my experience).

The case against him seems to be that he is not tough enough to take part in interrogations. Not of bad guys (though he would be a great "good cop"), but of CIA guys who apparently like to keep their business to themselves.

Perhaps this is a signal that they have to grow up.

I see the always sensible Sam Donaldson thinks Panetta will not make it through the confirmation process - but if Obama is really serious about imposing his will on the bureaucracy he may feel this is a battle he has to win.

I suspect this is a better take on the matter than Sam's.

This stuff about who checked with whom just does not matter, and Dianne Feinstein risks looking a bit behind the curve if she makes too much of a fuss...

UPDATE:

I see the Obama team are planning to get a TV doctor - albeit a well qualified one - to lead the nation's medical care.

Wow! My colleage Robert Peston for Chancellor of the Exchequer? Christiane Amanpour for Defense? Wolf Blitzer for transportation? (He could do those airport announcements: "Caution, the moving walkway is ending... ")


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