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Team Obama: Who is This “Leon Panetta” Guy You Speak of?

Okay, so the headline isn’t exactly how the White House responded to the bombshell that their former Defense Secretary dropped on 60 Minutes over the weekend, but they might as well have. After Leon Panetta told CBS’s Scott Pelley that he thought the early withdrawal from Iraq was a mistake and that he urged the president to arm the Syrian rebels a looooong time ago, you just knew that would be a prime topic of discussion at the White House press briefing. After all, it was only days ago that another one of the administration’s former Defense Secretaries — man, they go through a lot of those — Robert Gates was out there slamming POTUS for having “trapped himself” with his “no boots on the ground” pledge.

But instead of owning up to the huge Barry blunder, Press Secretary Josh Earnest played it off as if there’s really no distance whatsoever between Obama’s past policy and Panetta’s proposals. “I don’t think that even Secretary Panetta would suggest that a few weapons would have dramatically altered the outcome here,” Earnest said, referring specifically to Syria.

The typical semantic game being played by various members of the administration right now is a sudden claim that they supposedly know much better these days who they’ll be arming than they would have a year or two ago. Secretary of State John Kerry even told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday that “we have gotten very good” at vetting the Syrian rebels. “We’ve been doing 20 years of vetting now,” he insisted. Wow, and what great successes they have to show for it!

Meanwhile, another Obama flack named Ben Rhodes went so far as to claim that Panetta’s criticism of Obama for ignoring his suggestions was somehow an endorsement of Obama’s policy. Huh?

Secretary Panetta in his comments pointed exactly to what the president’s concern was,” insisted Rhodes. “If we moved precipitously to provide arms to the Syrian opposition without having relationships, without being able to vet them, then those arms could fall into the wrong hands.”

It didn’t help that Andrea Mitchell refused to challenge Rhodes at all, not to mention that the clip she played of Leon Panetta’s original remark was edited into a terribly short soundbite that lacked context. It wasn’t that Secretary Panetta was arguing that we shouldn’t have armed the Syrians because we didn’t know who they were. To the contrary, as he began to say before MSNBC’s clip ended, “You have to begin somewhere.” Panetta was conceding that we didn’t know exactly who the rebels were, but he was also arguing that it shouldn’t have stopped us from arming them anyway, because at the time, it was the best option…and look what has happened with the rise of ISIS since then.

But what it all illustrates is that President Obama and his many cronies simply don’t care what his military advisers (current or former) think, unless they happen to agree with him. It’s arguably one of the worst flaws a leader can have, and Obama has exhibited the rather unattractive quality for years.

If I were Leon Panetta right now, I’d thank my lucky stars that I got out of this administration when I did.


Matt Fox

Senior Editor

Fox has history in broadcasting that spans two decades. From his early days as an FM host and club DJ in the mid-90′s to his later experiences in political talk radio, he has always had a knack for combining topical news with his love for popular culture. Those experiences culminated in his position as executive producer for several radio shows featured in the TALKERS Heavy 100. Originally from New York, Fox has made the great pilgrimage down to sunny south Florida.

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