In the 1967 film "Cool Hand Luke" Strother Martin, playing the warden of a southern prison, tells Luke, played by Paul Newman: "What we have here is … failure to communicate."
That is exactly where the Obama Transition Team finds itself with its latest stumble, this time over the nomination of former Rep. Leon Panetta to be the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
We have already discussed the matter of "Peso" Bill Richardson having been nominated to be Secretary of Commerce in spite of an on-going Federal Grand Jury investigation into political donations to Richardson entities in return for New Mexico state contracts.
After that embarrassment, ABC News' Jack Tapper reports that Obama staffers felt that Richardson had not been as "forthcoming" as perhaps he should have been about the possibility of trading the title of "Governor of New Mexico" for the title of "Governor of Cell Block E."
And Politico's Jonathan Martin reports that a "Democratic source said Obama's questioners came away empty handed. 'Those guys were pressed for information and they gave nothing,' the source said."
It wasn't lying, the Obama folks seem to be saying, it was merely a … failure to communicate.
Here's a good idea for this or any future transition team. Ask every candidate for every post, no matter how senior, this question: "Is there anything we haven't discussed that you think we should know about?"
Hard on the heels of that, comes the matter of former Rep. Leon Panetta (D-CA) being nominated to head the CIA.
Nothing wrong with Leon Panetta. He never served on the Intelligence Committee when he was a Member of the House, but this has happened before. For example:
-- John Deutch (Clinton) came from the Department of Energy.
-- James Woosley (Clinton) had been counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee. And,
-- George H. W. Bush (Ford) had been Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Envoy to China.
So, a lack of Intelligence experience has not been a disqualifier to run the CIA over the three or four decades.
The issue with Panetta is that Obama announced the nomination without taking the time to inform the incoming Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that this was about to happen.
Even THAT's not the best part. The best part is Vice President-elect Joe Biden, according to Paul Kane's reporting in the Washington Post "admitted today the Obama transition team made a 'mistake' in not notifying either Feinstein or outgoing Intel Chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).
Biden was quoted as saying,
"I'm still a Senate man. I always think this way. It's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress. I think it was just a mistake."
On CNN's Strategy Session with Wolf Blitzer yesterday I said that statement had to mean that Biden had not been told about the Panetta nomination. Wolf said that it was impossible for the Vice President-elect not to have been informed.
I said that makes it even worse.
Why? Because if I'm right, Biden was by-passed by the Obama team (probably Rahm Emanuel). Biden must not have known, because if he did know he would have insisted that "the requisite members of Congress" be informed.
If Wolf is right and Biden knew, then he must have told Obama that Rockefeller and/or Feinstein should be informed and Obama said, essentially, "the hell with them."
Either way, a failure to communicate.
Feinstein, by the way, took her ire out on everyone by breaking with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in the matter of whether to seat Roland Burris for the position vacated by Obama as Senator from Illinois.
Sen. Reid is playing a losing hand on this thing. The Secretary of State will be forced to sign the certification by the Illinois Supreme Court and Burris will be seated.
Why Harry is making Burris stand, literally, out in the rain is beyond me.
According to Fox News, Feinstein asked, "Does [Gov. Rod Blagojevich] have the power, under law, to make the appointment? The answer is yes."
As Sen. Feinstein is also the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which has sway over whether or not to seat Burris, it would appear that her declaration settles the matter.
Unless… Unless Harry Reid isn't listening.
A failure to …
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