WASHINGTON -- It's a time-honored tradition in American politics for a new president to have a "honeymoon" before he experiences the rough and tumble of partisan combat that occurs during every administration.
But President-elect Barack Obama has been going through an unusually rocky period before even taking his inaugural wedding vows. A lot of the criticism and turmoil have been the result his own decision-making, and some of the brickbats being hurled at him have come from leaders in his own party.
His selection of Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff and budget director, to be his CIA head, ran into a hostile reception among key Senate Democrats. Their chief complaint: The former House lawmaker had no experience in intelligence operations. Panetta never even served on the intelligence committee in Congress.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein of California, Panetta's home state, loudly complained that she had not been consulted about his selection. Her imperious predecessor in that job, West Virginia's John D. Rockefeller, joined her in criticizing Panetta's lack of experience for a post that, in the age of terrorism, is one of the most critical national-security jobs in the government.
Obama called Feinstein and Rockefeller, as well as others in the Senate, to apologize for the way he had handled the nomination, but the damage was done. The man who said he was going to improve relations with Congress had not followed Protocol 101. His promises to choose the top experts in their fields was tarnished. Feinstein talked with Panetta later and seemed assured by their conversation, but colleagues say she remains troubled by Obama's pick.
Controversy over Panetta's nomination also came from current and former intelligence officials who fear Obama wants to move away from the tough interrogation practices and surveillance techniques he opposes, but that have kept the country safer since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Obama's inexperience was also evident when New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was forced to withdraw his name for Commerce secretary because of a grand jury investigation into a pay-to-play scandal involving one of Richardson's biggest campaign donors.
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