Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff who was appointed with Hillary’s blessing, has written a book with one clear motive: To bolster Hillary’s narrative that the failures of the foreign policy that she designed were simply not her fault.
Everything was Obama’s fault, not Hillary’s and, of course, not Panetta’s.
In the former Secretary of State’s book Hard Choices, she criticized Obama’s lack of strategic vision saying “not doing stupid stuff” is not an overarching foreign policy organizing principle.
Now Panetta echoes this criticism in his own book, Worthy Fights, describing a president who “avoids the battle, complains and misses opportunities.” He accuses Obama of “coordinating negotiations” to allow our troops to stay in Iraq to guard against an ISIS resurgence without “really leading them.”
According to Panetta, the White House “seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one” to keep our troops in Iraq, But, Panetta points out that without Obama’s personal involvement, it became impossible to convince Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki to reverse his position and agree to let a garrison of American troops remain. And Obama did not make the effort to persuade him.
Panetta amplifies the impact of the failure to leave troops there saying “To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.”
He said Obama had “kind of lost his way” and famously noted that the president too often “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”
Panetta’s comments come as Hillary wrestles with a central threat to her candidacy. She was Secretary of State for four years yet the foreign policy crafted then has proven to be an unprecedented failure. Everything that she worked on has blown up in our face. The Arab Spring has become a nightmare.
We are on the verge of signing a phony deal with Iran that will let them enrich uranium far into the future so they can make a bomb anytime they want.
The reset button with Russia is a joke and we have made zero progress on human rights or fair trade with China.
Hillary realizes that this is not a record on which to predicate a presidential campaign. So if the foreign policy she helped to craft is a fiasco, she has to blame someone else — the president.
Panetta stepped into help frame the issue. A Clintonista above all, he legitimized Hillary’s efforts to distance herself from the president on foreign policy without having to attack him herself. Now the negative points for disloyalty will accrue to Panetta not to Hillary.
The former defense secretary underscores the extent to which Obama’s failure to act against Syria when it crossed the “red line” he had drawn against the use of chemical weapons. He said “It was damaging.” Obama “sent a mixed message, not only to the Syrians, but to the world. And that is something you do not want to establish in the world: an issue with regard to the credibility of the United States to stand by what we say we’re gonna do.”
As our involvement in Iraq and Syria escalates into a full blown war — as it must now that our airstrikes are failing to do the job — the blame game will grow with it. Panetta’s comments are an attempt to swat the blame away from Hillary Clinton.
He will get his reward. Just wait.
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