November 1st, 2012

Why Leon Panetta?

In following the Benghazi debacle I am reminded of what an exceptionally poor choice Leon Panetta was, first for CIA head and then for Defense.

That’s not a new thought. I said as much when he was first appointed as CIA head in 2009 by Obama (as did almost everyone, including Diane Feinstein and the New Yorker—that lets you know what a rotten choice it was thought to be). The following is from my post about how and why Panetta was chosen to head the CIA; it’s instructive to go back and read it in light of what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi:

To say Panetta is inexperienced in intelligence would be an understatement. He is profoundly inexperienced, even more so than other previous CIA chiefs who came from a basically non-intelligence background. His main qualification appears to be that he was President Clinton’s chief of staff, and yet nevertheless supported Obama in his campaign against Hillary.

The real problem that seems to have led to the appointment of such a complete outsider was that everyone with any sort of background in intelligence was considered tainted by ties to the supposedly nefarious Bush-era CIA, which approved controversial techniques such as waterboarding.

So Obama decided to throw out the baby (intelligence) with the bathwater (coercive interrogation techniques). To find a CIA head with the properly squeaky clean hands, Obama had to find one with no hands-on experience at all. Panetta fit the bill, since he not only had the requisite lack of background, but he had also been outspoken in his condemnation of all CIA practices that could conjure up any suggestion that they might arguably represent torture. Therefore he was doubleplusgood.

Panetta is worse than incompetent; that’s why Obama picked him, and named him to Defense later (the latter appointment was to oversee budget cuts). It has been a pattern for the president to tend to nominate people who lack actual expertise and who are political operatives loyal to Obama (Petraeus, head of the CIA since 2011, is an exception). That way they would not be as likely to challenge him, since Obama is smarter than anyone else could possibly be, so he really only needs people who don’t get in the way of his superb decisions.

So then comes 9/11/2012, and although we don’t know exactly who made what decision and why, we know that both Obama and Panetta would (or should) have been deeply involved in the process. So is it any wonder the ambassador and his defenders were left hanging? And that the decisions made around the incident, both at that time and subsequently, seem to have been almost entirely politically motivated?

And then there’s Obama’s National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, a completely political animal with virtually no experience in foreign policy, although he was a successful lobbyist for Fannie Mae. A distubing portrait of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and military decisions, and the basic players, was painted in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book Obama’s Wars, which describes a president obsessed with exit strategy rather than victory in Afghanistan, and contemptuous of his generals:

According to Woodward’s meeting-by-meeting, memo-by-memo account of the 2009 Afghan strategy review, the president avoided talk of victory as he described his objectives…”Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.”..

Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”…

Tensions often turned personal. National security adviser James L. Jones privately referred to Obama’s political aides as “the water bugs,” the “Politburo,” the “Mafia,” or the “campaign set.” Petraeus, who felt shut out by the new administration, told an aide that he considered the president’s senior adviser David Axelrod to be “a complete spin doctor.”

It’s really all of a piece with the picture in Benghazi, isn’t it? Politics before security seems to be the motto.

It’s hard to believe that Obama might be elected to another term as president despite all of this. And yet that is exactly the possibility we face.

In closing, I bring you the following:

24 Responses to “Why Leon Panetta?”

  1. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Panetta is worse than incompetent; that’s why Obama picked him, and named him to Defense later (the latter appointment was to oversee budget cuts). It has been a pattern for the president to tend to nominate people who lack actual expertise and who are political operatives loyal to Obama”

    Au contraire! Panetta is incompetent in military matters but not in fiscal matters. Obama intends to gut our military, to reduce our nuclear missile capacity to less than China’s. Obama intends to do that through budget cuts. Panetta is absolutely the financial pencil pusher for that job.

  2. Bears_Fan Says:

    Panetta is efficient in being a company man (i.e. a bureaucrat). He knows DC and the players. He dutifully carries out orders. He is the buffer between Obama and those who often respond with “He wants us to do what?!?!?”

    Now, Obama tells him the ROE in the region, Panetta complies with zero pushback. When it all goes FUBAR, the phone rings, and Panetta dutifully falls on his sword.

    Obama’s inclination for a team full of yes-men/career operatives is also exemplified in him letting Tom Donilon (no military or foreign policy experience) push out the incomparable former Marine Corp General James Jones as NSA

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    incomparable former Marine Corp General James Jones” ?

    “As the National Security Adviser, General James Jones is not known as a friend of the Jewish State. It was Jones who put together the team of Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski to meet with the President and advise him to impose a solution on Israel.”

    Scowcroft and Bush seniors military adviser and , Carter’s… Brzezinski is arguably the most left leaning pacifist to ever advise an American President. That provides real insight into Jones’ views.

    On the other hand, according to Bob Woodwards new book ‘Obama’s Wars’; Jones “Resented the president’s political aides including Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff; David Axelrod, senior adviser; Robert Gibbs, press secretary; and Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, National Security Council officials. Calling them “the water bugs,” “the Politburo,” the “Mafia” or “the campaign set.””

    He’s also on record stating that, “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”

    So a mixed record but IMO little basis for extending the label of ‘incomparable’…

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Oops! should read “Scowcroft was Bush seniors military adviser”

  5. George Pal Says:

    I can have as much fun as the next guy psychoanalyzing the president but a little goes a long way and too much obfuscates the obvious.

    Obama hasn’t contempt just for the generals, he has it generally for this country and its institutions. The Panetta’s and Donilon’s will not challenge him and are as likely to make a mash of their responsibilities for which the have no qualifications. The question is which is the primary motive and which frosts the cake? Obama has done as much with the DOJ installing a perfectly useful radical who would make the DOJ indistinguishable in its aspirations from that of the New Black Panther Party.

    The malevolent motives of Obama toward this country are known; the question seems to be has he a preference for the dismantling – active demolition or passive/aggresive incompetence?

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “the question seems to be has he a preference for the dismantling – active demolition or passive/aggresive incompetence?”

    Why not both?

  7. Highlander Says:

    Is there anyone outside his immediate circle of family, political and otherwise, who does not meet with Obama’s contempt?

  8. Occam's Beard Says:

    Panetta is to DCIA as Obama is to POTUS.

  9. bad haikumenter Says:

    I remember historian Doris Kearnes Goodwin, gushing over Obama supposedly stocking his cabinet with a Lincolnesque “team of rivals”. The implicit flush of her gush: Obama is wonderfully shrewd.

  10. Oldflyer Says:

    Well said, Neo.

    In another thread I referred to Panetta as a political hack. I thought I might get some push back on that harsh statement, but maybe there is a consensus.

    No one can accuse Obama of lacking consistency when it comes to poor judgement. He appointed this man, who had no intelligence experience, to DCIA; and then despite no management experience, save two years as OMB, and four years herding cats in Clinton’s White House, to Secretary of Defense. He is, of course, a lawyer.

    To rub our noses in it, Panetta is provided with a personal DOD jet to fly him home to Monterey, Ca every weekend. We do this, presumably, because he is the most qualified man in the whole country to run defense, and he demands this little concession as his price to serve. It would have been nice if he and Pelosi could have jet-pooled to the west coast. It will really be nice when they are both just citizens and have to pay their own way.

    This election could provide multi-benefits. When we evict Obama from the White House we simultaneously rid the government of an infestation of trolls.

    bad haikumenter, thanks for reminding us. Of course, Doris Kearns Goodwin is a serial gusher over all things Obama.

  11. cpins Says:

    CBS has fresh news of failed WH response:;fdmodule

  12. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Just breaking in the last half hour on FOX—the senior level, interagency, Counterterrorism Security Group–established after the terrorist attacks against our Embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole—and created to deal with just such situations as Benghazi, was never activated by the WH to deal with Benghazi.

  13. Dennis Says:

    A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s. It was ever thus.

  14. Steve Says:

    Palling around with communists is something that Panetta has in common with Obama:

  15. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Re: My post above.

    To have activated the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) would have been to admist to the whole workld that the attacks on our Consulate in Benghazi were Terrorism, and to admit that these attacks were terrorist would be to admit that, despite the killing of Bin Laden, Obama’s entire Foreign Policy approach to the Middle East and Terrorism was a failure, Muslim Terrorism was alive and well and, in fact, on the march once more.

    So, the CSG was not activated, and no help was sent, our people died, and I assume that it was coldly and cynically calculated in the White House that, with the complicity of the MSM, their nonsensical and threadbare cover story could hold, that this would all died down, that Obama & Co. could just slide by until they won a successful election and, then, they could somehow deal with the fallout.

  16. D. B. Light Says:

    Excellent post — but then that’s what we have come to expect from you.

  17. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Sorry about the typos.

  18. parker Says:

    “… Obama’s entire Foreign Policy approach to the Middle East and Terrorism was a failure, Muslim Terrorism was alive and well and, in fact, on the march once more.”

    Indeed. I repeat myself, but will reiterate that the debacle in Benghazi is not going to fade away. It is now and will remain a burning tire around BHO’s neck. Time for BHO & Michelle to go back to sweet home Hawaii.

    13 minutes of bliss:

  19. Curtis Says:

    I hear that Parker, and raise you this:

    Now, what I want to know is . . .

  20. Curtis Says:

    America the great, the beautiful, the absorbing junior, the swelling beast, can you imahine, for lots of the sweets what has been forgotten, what has been steamed clean, and the purpose of Mr. Wolf, the cleaner, who shall rest us underneath the waters, so history will repeat amd will not state, that once again, we failed, but will try, again.

    Yet . . . the end is not reached; the cycle may be breached

    this time.

  21. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Re: General Ham.

    The Washington Times quotes a DOD spokesman as saying that General Ham–who has told a member of Congress that he never received orders to come to the rescue of our citizens under attack at our Consulate in Benghazi–and who was abruptly replaced as head of AFRICOM in the wake of the Benghazi fiasco, is now retiring (

    Something’s fishy here, and like the whole Benghazi disaster, stinks.

  22. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    P.S. According to Congressman Chaffetz, General Ham told him that he “did not get an order” to rescue the people in Benghazi i.e. this was Ham’s way of confirming that “no such order was given,” and perhaps that was why Ham was abruptly replaced.

  23. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I think that VP “Crazy Joe” Biden summed up the essence of the entire Obama Administration the other day, when he excreted the noisome saying, “I’m giving you the whole load today.”

  24. fred herman Says:

    Petraeus is not an exception and he is also a poor choice for CIA head. His arrogance in thinking that the surge that worked in a flat Iraq could work in a mountainous Afghanistan was a tactical failure.
    My hopes are that Bolton is the next CIA head.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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