Follow me here. The chief of staff at the CIA - the guy who is Panetta's closest advisor - is a man named Jeremy Bash. According to Congressional Quarterly, "[Bash] is best known for his role as chief minority counsel of the House Intelligence Committee and close aide to Rep. Jane Harman, D-Ca. "
So, Panetta's CoS used to be Harmon's top aide on House Intel. Harmon gets passed over by Pelosi. Bash goes to CIA with Panetta and out comes this memo pretty directly whacking the Speaker upside the head with a 2 x 4.
Where was Barack Obama in all this? Laying low. Or so it seemed.
But, given a choice between siding with the CIA director - who serves at the pleasure of the President - and the Speaker of the House - who doesn't care how pleased, or displeased, the President might be - guess where the White House came out?
Yesterday, the New Yorker Magazine, in a typically New Yorker-esque 7,600 word article by Jane Mayer, quoted Panetta as saying:
"I think [Cheney] smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue. It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
Yikes. Talk about questioning the motives of your political opponent. Newt Gingrich got shouted down from all quarters when he called Sonia Sotomayer a racist for saying Latinas made better decisions as judges than White men. Newt backed off.
The same magazine said this about Panetta's role when he was nominated this past January:
The CIA director has four important jobs: manage the White House relationship; manage Congress, particularly to obtain budgetary favor; manage the agency's workforce and daily operations; and manage liaisons with other spy chiefs, friendly and unfriendly.
Given what I know about how Washington works, I think it is highly likely that Leon Panetta was called on the carpet by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and told that of those four "important jobs" he was getting an "F" on numbers one and two; a "C" on three; and an "Incomplete" on four.
In the way of Chicago politics - going all the way back to the Capone era - Panetta had to do some serious penance.
Panetta couldn't apologize to Pelosi. He would have quit first. But, at the urging of the White House he could and did take on the chief raspberry seed in the tooth of the Obama Administration, Dick Cheney, and that's what Emanuel told him his punishment was to be.
So, Panetta got the message, delivered the message, and got well with the White House (job number one); but he still hasn't made nice with Pelosi. Watch to see how long it takes for Jeremy Bash to decide he needs to spend more time with his family.