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October 24, 2011

What's The Matter With (Peter Baker's Profile of) Leon Panetta?
Posted by Michael Cohen

So today the New York Times has a page one profile of new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta - and well, it's a funny thing, apparently the New York Times couldn't find a single person to say a critical word about the Panetta's performance as Sec Def. 

What I find particularly strange about this is that last week I wrote 1400 words here offering a more critical assessment of Panetta's job to date and in particular his over-the-top rhetoric on defense spending. Now granted my take is the furthest thing from definitive ... but in writing that piece I was struck by how many smart observers of US national security policy had less than charitable assessments of Panetta's efforts.

Here is Winslow Wheeler with repeated critiques of Panetta's alarmist language on the impact of defense spending.

Here's Bill Hartung criticizing Panetta's claim that reducing defense spending will increase unemployment (and here's another pointing out that his criticisms of defense spending are a tad fact-free).

Here's a few posts from Ben Armbruster at Think Progress pointing out the hollowness of Panetta's claims that spending reductions in DoD's budget will result in a hollowed out military.

Here's Spencer Ackerman completely destorying Panetta's pander-ific speech at the AUSA conference.

Here's Andrew Sullivan pointing out Panetta's inclination to "go native" first at the CIA and now the Pentagon.

I could go on, but the point is that there is hardly a dearth of criticism out there of Panetta's performance. Is it too much to ask the New York Times to find a couple of them?

And one last point on this; here's the kicker of Baker's story on Panetta: 

Asked about inspirations, Mr. Panetta nodded toward portraits of Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Marshall. “These two guys were always, you know, kind of heroes of mine,” he said. “So every once in a while, I turn around in that chair and look at them and say, you know, what the hell would you do?”

He laughed. “The problem is,” he said, “they’re not talking back.”

If they did talk back, you know what they might tell him? Well Dwight D. Eisenhower would probably counsel Panetta to utilize the remainder method when determining DoD's budget (that means spending money on domestic priorities and letting the remainder go to the Pentagon). At the very least Ike would probably find Panetta's recent posturing on defense spending to be completely unseemly. Here's the thing: if you're going to cite an esteemed national figure as an inspiration you might want to know what they actually believed.


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Leon Panetta said that there are no serious matter. but Panetta is now fairly hawkish and aggressive on national security issues.

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