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: