Much is being written about the revelations in former secretary of defense and CIA chief Leon Panetta’s new book, “Worthy Fights,” regarding President Obama’s inadequacies and mistakes as commander in chief. The Panetta revelations have provoked a fresh appraisal of similar disclosures from former secretary of defense Bob Gates in his book and the more gentle — but still direct — criticisms of the president found in former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s book.
None of these individuals are amateurs. They were not manipulated into writing what they did by greedy publishers hoping to sell books. They are not a bunch of Scott McClellans, the now-forgotten White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, who shamed himself by using his so-called memoir to turn on Bush 43. Panetta, Gates and Clinton are not lightweights who are in over their heads, nor do they think they need to reveal secrets to get attention. They are all distinguished leaders who don’t shoot from the hip or have anything to prove. So when they agree on something, whatever they are telling us should be treated seriously. The world should take notice.
The explosive conclusions they all independently report about President Obama should not be seen as acts of disloyalty or selfishness, as The Post’s Dana Milbank suggests in his latest piece, “Leon Panetta, other former Obama subordinates show stunning disloyalty.” What else could have motivated their so-called disloyalty? Maybe we should look at their revelations not as selfish, disloyal acts, but as sincere warnings from patriots. Are they trying to tell others still serving in this administration that President Obama has the wrong instincts and a misguided worldview? Do they think the president needs to be aggressively hounded into doing the right thing to protect America’s interests and not be left to his own devices? Perhaps Panetta, Gates and Clinton are telling those who still serve in government that President Obama’s biases and instincts need to be challenged. The few adults left in the administration should not roll over, and the Republican opposition needs to be constantly vigilant in order to try to shape a more protective American national security posture. Maybe Panetta, Gates and Clinton are putting loyalty to a country at risk ahead of deference to the president who appointed them.
All three knew their disclosures would be flashpoints in the media and that many would find fault in their decision to go public. Gates and Panetta have both held their last government jobs, they don’t need the money and they don’t have an agenda beyond contributing to the historical record. Clinton may have a more tangled mix of motives behind her latest book, but the points she makes are still valid when reinforced by Gates and Panetta.
The bottom line is that all three have made it clear: There are problems within the Obama administration, and they saw those problems up close. As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told Milbank, “Secretary Panetta and others are echoing what is obvious from the outside, but it’s more powerful when it’s coming from people on the inside.”
So rather than have a knee-jerk reaction, rush to protect President Obama and see character flaws in three people who have served their country in a variety of capacities, maybe we should listen more closely to what they are telling us. The Obama apologists who are howling that Panetta, Gates and Clinton are just trying to sell books know better.
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