Under Barack Obama he Leon Panetta was director of the Central
Intelligence Agency and secretary of defense — the last two under
President Obama, but he has been part of beltway politics since 1966 when he was a staffer to Republican Senator Thomas Kuchel the minority whip. In other words He knows Washington and knows how president’s are supposed to act.
Yesterday Panetta spoke at a breakfast hosted by The Wall Street Journal and did not have kind words to say about his former bosses handling of the Government shutdown.
“You have to engage in the process … you’ve got to roll up your sleeves,” Panetta said
“We govern either by leadership or crisis. . . . If leadership is not there, then we govern by crisis,” Panetta said at the start of the session, sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. “Clearly, this town has been governing by crisis after crisis after crisis.”
Which raised the obvious question: What does this say about the president’s leadership?
Several observations ensued. “This town has gotten a lot meaner in the last few years.” Relationships have deteriorated. Redistricting into safe seats hasn’t helped. Neither has the explosion of money in campaigns, or the elimination of earmarks. (Negotiating one Clinton budget, Panetta recalled, “I think I sold about six bridges to get there.”)
Then, to Obama. “This president — he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely able, he’s somebody who I think certainly understands the issues, asks the right questions, and I think has the right instincts about what needs to be done for the country.”
Next came the “but” — without a name but with a clear message. “You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about.”
Panetta’s comments are nothing new–there were grumblings in his own party about his hands off approach during previous contentious debates such as the stimulus bill, and Obamacare.
I would also suggest that the President’s continued “campaign mode” combined with his hands off approach and lack of leadership is a major contributor to the “meanness” that Panetta was describing above.
This is a President who doesn’t lead…he divides.