Attorney General Eric Holder, who recently announced that he’ll retire from the Obama administration, criticized former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for criticizing the president.
Panetta’s new book, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, came out earlier this month. In the text and a series of interviews around the book’s release, the retired secretary decried foreign policy that’s “damaging” U.S. credibility.
“I have to really disagree with his characterization of the president,” Holder told CNN. “The president is a deliberate person in an appropriate way. But he’s also resolute once he makes up his mind.”
“So I think that what Leon said in the book is unfortunate, and frankly I don’t think it’s something that a former cabinet member should do while the president you served is still in office,” the attorney general added. “That’s not something that I would even consider doing.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN on Monday that he’d add to Holder’s comments on Panetta by noting “the president has shown that he’s willing to use military force, not just against Osama bin Laden but against terrorist targets in Yemen and Somalia and Libya.”
“He’ll use force when it’s necessary. But we make no apologies for being deliberate about the use of force, particularly when it engages the United States in conflicts like in the Middle East,” Rhodes said. “After the last decade, I think the American people want a president who’s going to think hard before making those decisions, who’s going to ask the hard questions and then, when he does pursue a strategy, he makes sure he’s drawing from the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan so that we’re not putting our men and women at the same risks that they’ve been in this last decade.”
Holder has said he’ll stay on the job until his replacement, whom Obama has not yet nominated, is confirmed.
When asked about his biggest failure on the job, Holder replied, “I think the inability to pass reasonable gun safety laws after the Newtown massacre is, for me, something that I take personally as a failure and something that I think we as a society should take as a failure.”
His greatest success? “I’m happy with where we are with regard to our criminal justice reform issues, the stands that we’ve taken against voter suppression efforts, the attempts to include the LGBT community in ways that it has not been before and to knock down those final vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “It’s a whole variety of things I’m really proud of the people of this Justice Department and the way they’ve done them over the past six years.”
On the eventual outcome of the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., Holder said he hopes “people will understand that certainly with regard to the federal government, that we looked at the facts, looked at the law, had to deal with that high standard and came to an appropriate conclusion.”
“I think what we’ll have to do as we always do in civil rights investigations from the federal perspective is look at what the state has done and then make a determination as to whether or not the state investigation was adequate,” he added.