At first glance, President Barack Obama's decision to nominate Leon Panetta as the nation's next secretary of defense appears to be a good one. If confirmed by the Senate, Panetta, who now heads the CIA, would replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Panetta is far from an apolitical public servant. He headed former President Bill Clinton's budget office and is respected within Democrat circles for his political acumen.
But while at the CIA, Panetta has demonstrated an independent streak, sometimes disagreeing strongly with the White House.
Panetta would replace Robert Gates, who began as defense secretary during former President George W. Bush's administration. His leadership, especially in reducing defense spending, has been important. We hope Panetta will continue hat tradition.