Panetta: Obama 'Lost His Way,' 'Lacks Fire'

Ex-CIA, DoD head describes frustration in new memoir
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2014 2:47 AM CDT
Updated Oct 7, 2014 7:11 AM CDT
Panetta: Obama 'Lost His Way,' 'Lacks Fire'
In this Feb. 13, 2013, photo, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks during his last news conference at the Pentagon.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The man who ran the CIA from 2009 to 2011 and the Pentagon from 2011 to 2013 has got some pretty scathing things to say about his old boss in his new memoir, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, and in interviews with USA Today and the New York Times. Some highlights:

  • President Obama, aware that America was weary after two wars, failed to assert American leadership when crises erupted and hoped "others in the world could step up to the plate," so there was "kind of a mixed message that went out with regard to the role of the United States," Panetta says.

  • Obama "vacillated" over striking the Syrian regime and arming rebels, and "by failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world," Panetta writes in the memoir, which is published today.
  • The president's failure to take steps to prevent the sequester's budget cuts displayed "what I regard as his most conspicuous weakness, a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause," Panetta writes. The president, he notes, isn't short on ideas or intellect, but he does "sometimes lack fire."
  • Obama's failure to forge a deal to keep US troops in Iraq after 2011 "created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it's out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed," Panetta says.
  • On Obama's legacy, Panetta says, "For the first four years, and the time I spent there, I thought he was a strong leader on security issues. ... But these last two years I think he kind of lost his way."
  • But the president "may have found himself again with regards to this ISIS crisis," Panetta says, and he could still leave a strong legacy "if he's willing to roll up his sleeves and engage with Congress."
  • Panetta, at 76, has no intention—and, after what Dana Milbank at the Washington Post calls his "stunning disloyalty," probably no chance—of returning to public office, and he says he's now concentrating on his walnut farm. "I'm dealing with a different set of nuts," he quips.
(More Leon Panetta stories.)

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