Feinstein’s Fine Line

Phew!  Dianne Feinstein sure has been in the news a lot this week.  First she’s angry at the Obama team for not letting her and Jay Rockefeller know that they were selecting Leon Pannetta to head the CIA (and for choosing Pannetta at all over their personal pick, current Deputy Director of the agency, Steve Kappes).  Then she picks a fight with Harry Reid by announcing that Roland Burris should be seated.

First of all, let me say that I don’t object at all to Feinstein showing a little backbone.  We can’t have an effective Democratic Administration if Congressional Democrats cow-tow completely (cough cough, as Republicans did to the Bush Administration, cough couch).  But I wonder what her calculus was here, given that her initial reaction to Pannetta on Monday was pretty easily refuted both by Obama, members of the Intelligence community, and other members of Intelligence committees in both the Senate and the House.

As Sam Stein at Huffington Post said, Obama quickly put out the Pannetta fire by having a thorough conversation with both Feinstein and Rockefeller and bringing them into the fold.  And Steve Benen reasons they probably won’t make a fight out of this, since it’s likely one they are going to lose.

Yesterday on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow guested and made some good points about how the Director of the CIA is more of a management position now that there is an Intelligence Czar (Admiral Blair, in the new Administration) and how connected Feinstein and Rockefeller are to rubber-stamping the Bush torture policy.

The progressive left was up in arms that Obama might choose a CIA director with close ties to torture, and Obama really came through by selecting someone who is not just unconnected, but was also a vocal opponent.  It was an olive branch to some of the lefties who have expressed irritation at some of Obama’s so-called moderate picks.

The real ironic thing, I think, is that if Obama had selected a Feinstein or a Rockefeller for the post, there would have been widespread resistance from the progressive left, given their association with the Bush torture policy. Why are these two growing backbones only now, to confront their own president, when they were so willing to let the Bush Administration do whatever it wanted for so many years?

And, this is probably a throwaway at this point, but why does Feinstein feel impassioned to defend Roland Burris as well?  He’s a showboater and, seemingly, a megalomaniac — don’t make the entire Senate Democratic Caucus look bad by becoming his sole defender.

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