David Stokes
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This weekend, Jack Bauer returns to save all things great and small during the latest fictional crisis to be played out over one agonizingly long day.  No doubt he will be the same old Jack, not a man known for subtlety or nuance.  Bullets will fly, some bombs will explode, while others tick away, and the good guys will ultimately prevail. 

In a strange and ironic juxtaposition, as faithful viewers begin another seasonal journey with 24, a real-life drama is unfolding, one that involves the appointment of someone who represents ideas as un-like Jack Bauer as possible.  President-Elect Barack Obama is tapping old Washington hand Leon Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Panetta is, by all accounts, an able manager and savvy politician – both qualities will certainly help him in this new role.  But many have raised questions – serious ones (and not all by Republicans) - about his qualifications for this unique role.  I hear the Secretary of Commerce position is open once again, wouldn’t a manager do well there?  There is a difference between management and leadership. 

It doesn’t take a mind reader to discern that Mr. Obama is determined to tame the CIA and bend it to his will and vision.  Not all of his appointments have demonstrated the kind of change he campaigned about, but this one surely does.  He is taking a cue from his hero, John F. Kennedy – specifically the JFK who tried to clean the spy house after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  Goodbye, Allen Dulles the espionage expert, and hello, John McCone the efficient manager.

Panetta is the new McCone.

The only thing the Leon Panetta appointment and Jack Bauer have in common is the lack-of-subtlety thing.   A signal is being sent to the nation and nations.  A kinder-gentler sheriff is in town.  No more ugly stuff - certainly no hint of torture.  And GITMO?  Well, we’re going to shut that bad place down and bring its residents to our mainland – maybe even a backyard near you.

Americans are decent people.  We understandably flinch and recoil at violence.  We deplore senseless killing.   We cannot even begin to grasp the fanatical insanity of our Islamist enemies.  

But the mistake often made is to assume that others – in places far away and vastly different – think and feel as we do.  We regularly and all too predictably underestimate the wickedness and bloodthirsty nature of those who would just as soon wipe us off the face of the planet as look at us.   Too many think that people are all basically reasonable and we just need to find some common ground.

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David Stokes

David R. Stokes is a best-selling author, pastor, columnist, and broadcaster. His latest book is a novel: CAPITOL LIMITED: A Story about John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Based on a true story, it's about a unique moment in 1947, when Kennedy and Nixon shared