My first reaction is that it's a great choice. Andrew Sullivan, who is beyond righteous in his continual condemnation of the use of torture under the Bush-Cheney regime, quoted Panetta at length on not using torture and had this comment:
This is a good day for America's soul.High praise from a skeptic is a good sign.
It took me a minute to see the logic of this choice, but it's not hard to figure out. First, it strengthens the hand of Congressional Democrats, because many of them know him, particularly the ones from California (which would include Nancy Pelosi). Second, he's known as a great manager, someone who can clean up a bureaucratic mess. After taking on the federal budget and the Clinton White House, the CIA might almost be easy. He obviously knows Hillary, and she might have even been pushing for him for this job, so that's good.
Most important, perhaps, he's a tough but fair Democrat. I've always had a strong impression of him as an honest broker. I think he will have the respect of serious people from both sides of the aisle. The wackjobs will find something to complain about, but that's true for every appointment.
I'm impressed. This is a better choice than I was expecting. Great move by Obama. Sort of like Rahmbo - Obama found a tough Democrat for a tough job.