The Presidential selection of the Cabinet is not always a smooth process. Obama’s pick for Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson and his pick for CIA Director Leon Panetta have both tripped before they even reach their confirmation hearings.
New Mexico Governor, and former Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson withdrew his from his nomination for Secretary of Commerce following a probe into business deals regarding campaign financing. The investigation concerns the California company CDR Financial Products that won a state contract in New Mexico. One of Richardson’s close friends Mike Stratton worked as a consultant to this firm, and he advised and donated to Richardson’s presidential campaign. In the past, both Stratton and CDR’s CEO donated to Richardson’s political committees. The largest contribution was made days before CDR won the state contract, leading investigators to determine whether there was a political connection. Though a greatly vetted commerce authority touted as just the one to sell Obama’s economic plans, Richardson withdrew from his nomination as Secretary of Commerce, saying that the legal process would have delayed the confirmation process and distracted the administration from working out the economic crisis. Despite this, Richardson has returned to New Mexico, and has recently unveiled a budget plan that targets a possible $500 million deficit from a drop in fuel revenue.
Leon Panetta, a “uniquely qualified” man of “broad experience” according to Obama, faces suspicion and outright opposition to his newly appointed post as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The controversy, led by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, focuses on his lack of any experience with an intelligence organization. Though without any actual intelligence experience, he is a prominent Washington manager and budgeter, and he worked on the Iraq Study Group. Pulling Panetta away from California where he is a major budget and policy reformer is another criticized move, considering California’s budgetary crisis. Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group and former Congressman Lee Hamilton points out that Panetta could bring valuable governmental knowledge and a different perspective to the chief intel post. After a week of criticisms, officials are warming up to Panetta’s appointment. Senior Senator Intelligence Committee Ron Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “For too long our nation’s intelligence community has operated under a policy of questionable effectiveness and legality. I look forward to working with Mr. Panetta to declassify much of the story of what went wrong at the CIA these last eight years.”
All Cabinet positions will be confirmed by the Senate over several weeks, with all including President Obama taking office January 20. With extremely pressing issues in politics, the economy, and the environment, this Cabinet will be Obama’s A-Team.