Mr. Obama -- Quit Campaigning, Start Leading

If you close your eyes and think of a country where a new leader is (1) investigating the leader that came before him, (2) doling out possible criminal charges against that former leader's subordinates, and (3) sending one agency to investigate whether another agency overstepped its boundaries while it is 100% certain that no citizen was harmed as a result and on the contrary citizens'  lives were saved, some countries would automatically come to mind -- mostly in the developing world -- but not one of them would be the United States of America.

This week Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder, he of the Marc Rich pardon fame, announced that he is appointing a special prosecutor to "examine," that's Washington-speak for "investigate," whether CIA interrogators broke any laws by using "harsh" interrogation tactics in order to, according to current CIA head Leon Panetta, secure information that was key to preventing attacks on Los Angeles, London and American citizens around the world. The FBI, acting at teh behest of the Obama administration, will now investigate the CIA's actions under the Bush administration, actions which were believed by the CIA's employees to be both legal and necessary to protect the United States and its citizens.

There is a reason why Leon Panetta, a well-known political moderate and former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton, is releasing CIA documents in support of the interrogators, cursing out members of Team Obama and is considering quitting his CIA post; he knows this probe is not reflective of the America that he has served for decades.

The tradition of a smooth and peaceful transition of power has been part and parcel of this country's greatness since the day president John Adams took over for president George Washington. It has assured all sitting administrations that (1) those that follow them will not use the White House as a tool to settle political scores, and (2) that they will not be charged with any crime for actions which they believe on good authority are legal and benefit the United States of America.

This week is seminally bad for this tradition, if this "examination" of the CIA continues and results in criminal charges not only will members of the intelligence community be less likely to take steps that are crucial to protecting this country, future presidents and their administrations will be hamstrung by a fear of prosecutions once they become ex-presidents.

One such future ex-president is Barack Obama. It is painfully obvious that this week's misstep is indicative both of his lack of foresight and experience.

Regarding his future as an ex-president, Mr. Obama needs to take a moment and consider whether the team that will inevitably follow him in the White House, either in 3 or 7 years from now, might pick up the mantle of prosecuting its predecessor and take issue with anything and everything from national health care and taking control of the Internet, to funneling money to groups such as ACORN through the stimulus bill, to any other controversial decision made by the Obama administration.

As for the president's inexperience, during my time on the McCain campaign last year, we pointed voters time and again to Obama's dangerously thin record as a politician; a message that did not resonate with the voters but is now ringing true.

This is an administration that works to win every day in the press. The White House is using a campaign-style approach to governing that is dangerous and ineffective. And it's his campaign-style approach to governing which is being led by Obama because campaigning is all the chief executive has ever done and knows how to do.

The president might have won the news cycle on Monday by dragging CIA interrogators through the mud but his presidency and the very makeup of the American constitutional tradition has suffered as a result.

Boris Epshteyn is a political strategist, attorney and business consultant in New York City. He served as a communications aide on the McCain/ Palin 2008 presidential campaign and is a frequent panelist on's "Strategy Room." Contact him at