With Defense, I think former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (a Republican) would be a really good choice, although I’d really like to see Secretary Panetta stay at the Pentagon for a few more years.
I’m a big supporter of Leon Panetta, who I think is a vastly underrated public servant. I think Panetta would be an ideal Vice Presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2016 or, better yet, bring his wealth of experience back home to California and run for Governor. With his organizational skills (former White House Chief of Staff), variety of experiences (CIA Director, OMB Director, SecDef), and legislative ability (8-term Congressman), I think that Panetta could approach California’s problems differently than the career state politicians who have held the Governor’s office in Sacramento for the past couple of decades.
In fact, even though I don’t live in California anymore, as I am answering this question I am becoming more-and-more convinced that Panetta for Governor is a brilliant idea. With all due respect to Governor Brown, I might have to make some noise about this idea and try to create a buzz.