Leon Panetta—Hero or Villain?


Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addressing a luncheon at the National Press Club, December 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. Photo by Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock.com.


Former CIA director and SecDef Leon Panetta has been all over television the last couple of days, from the Today show to The O’Reilly Factor,  flogging his new book Worthy Fights.  He has been saying  a lot of bad things about Obama and his administration — the weakness vis-a-vis ISIS and Islamic terrorism in general, the absurd pretense that al-Qaeda (and consequently Islamic extremism) had been defeated,  the prevarications (polite term) about Benghazi, etc. — that many of us, to say the least, rather strongly suspected.

He has appeared extremely worried about the future of our country and the world, as he well should be.  And all of this has been given extra gravitas because Mr. Panetta was very much an insider to nearly all the important foreign policy decisions until recently.  He was there.

It’s good that we know all this, or some of it, now, but I must ask the obvious question that even Bill O’Reilly omitted — or felt it impolite to ask.  Mr. Panetta, why didn’t you do something about it at the time?  Yes, I know you made your pitch — as you say others did — and the president just couldn’t be moved.  But if that was the case, why did you stay there?  Why didn’t you quit, leave this administration that was doing nearly everything wrong and hurting our country and the world, when it became increasingly obvious that you couldn’t change it, change him?  Wouldn’t that have been the patriotic thing, to do something before it is too late?  Because now, it may actually be… too late.


Here are some other questions I would like to ask you.  What of the president’s infatuation and alliance with repellent Islamists like Turkey’s Erdogan or Egypt’s Morsi?  Did anyone express skepticism to him at the time these might not be the proper allies for a democratic country, that they were Islamic fundamentalists whose allegiance was to a religious extremist ideology that sought to rule the world and deny basic rights to a huge number of its citizens?  What did you think of all the  apologies the president was making to execrable Arab potentates who oppressed their own people?  What of the endless criticisms of our ally Israel for defending itself against missiles and terror attacks in a manner almost any country would?  Looking back now, do you ever think that you should have come forward sooner?

Perhaps I hope for too much.  Perhaps Leon Panetta’s being half-moral is better than nothing at all.  And in defense of Panetta, he did go on O’Reilly.  He knew that wouldn’t be fun. And you can’t expect the likes of Valerie Jarrett or Susan Rice to step forward.  At least Panetta is out there — and before the election.  I am grateful to him for that.

But like many people, I am fearful, fearful that our great country has been mortally wounded during the last six years.  We need Panetta, and others, to say more, much more.  We need them to hold their collective noses, expose all the nauseating details of this administration and speak in defense of America because it is America itself  that has been under assault by its own executive branch.  What could be worse than that?


(I would like to thank my wife Sheryl Longin  and Dana Perino for inspiring this post. Smart women are often better than men at seeing through the hype.)

Related: “Panetta: I Immediately Knew that Benghazi Was a Terrorist Attack,” from Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler.


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