Sunday, October 12, 2014

He Began as a Republican

Leon Panetta with Jim Newton. Worthy Fights. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Press, 2014.

The author served as an intelligence officer and an attorney in the military. After leaving the military, he walked into Sen. Tom Kuche’s office and asked if they had any job openings. They did and he got the job. Kuchel advised Pantetta to avoid the temptations of people who want to give him gifts and buy him meals, informing him “our job is to serve the public interest and the people of California” and to remember “you have to look at yourself in the mirror.”

Panetta then became a Special Assistant to Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary Robert Finch. Panette argued against school “free choice” as it would only lead to continued school desegregation. Nixon did not ie his position and asked that Panetta be removed from job. Panetta resigned his post. He then worked for New York Mayor John Lindsay for a year.

Panetta ran for Congress against incumbent Rep. Burt Talcott. Talcott opposed California accepting Vietnamese refugees because “we have too many Orientals already.” Talcott had won his last election in 1974 by only 2,000 votes out of 150,000 cast against Julian Camacho. Camacho chose not to run again in 1976, so Panetta ran.

Talcott was on the Environmental Action’s “Dirty Dozen” list of members of Congress opposed to pro-environmental legislation.

Panetta’s campaign raised $2,000 and had bills of $2,754 Rep. Phil Burton convinced Speaker Tip O’Neill that Panetta could win. O’Neill visited the district to fundraise. The campaign ultimately raised $180,000. Panetta won 53% of the vote.

O’Neill asked for a vote in favor of a pay raise Panetta voted against it and refused to accept the increased pay.

Panetta worked on protecting California coastal land from oil drilling. He helped create the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Panetta proposed extending Medicare to hospices. He noted this would save funds as traditional care was more expensive. Panetta asked Sen. Bob Dole to sponsor the bill. Dole agreed.

Panetta served and chaired the House Budget Committee His ability to find cost savings in budgets led to President Clinton naming Panetta as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

As OMB Director, he worked on deficit reduction. The Clinton Administration acted so the Federal Reserve would determine their efforts were serious so the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates dow. Unemployment went from 7% when Clinton became President to 4% when he left Wages increased more than the slight increase in inflation. The Dow Jones was 3,242 when Clinton became President was over 10,000 when he left.

Panetta later became President Clinton’s Chief of Staff. James Baker, who served as Reagan’s Chief of Staff, advised Panetta that all communications to the President flow through him.

Panetta learned how to argue for Congressional votes. He asked Rep. Barbara Rose Collins for a vote. She told hi Jesus came to her in a dream and that “God will allow me to support the bill if I get a casino for my district.”

Clinton stood his ground as Congressional Republicans insisted on cutting programs Clinton supported. A Federal government shutdown resulted. Senate Leader Bob Dole agreed to a compromise with Clinton yet Speaker Gingrich did not. Clinton refused to budget. Gingrich finally agreed, realizing Clinton would not budget.

Panetta was a member of the Iraq Study Group that examined how to make progress in Iraq without assessing blame.

President Obama named Panetta as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Pnetta insisted he would tell Obama objective intelligence and tell him the truth. Obama agreed that was necessary.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein was concerned about Panetta’s not being a career intelligence agent, Panetta had participated in intelligence discussions as Chief of Staff and attempted to demonstration his usefulness was as a leader

Panetta created a defined daily schedule as CIA Director. Obama wanted enhanced interrogation procedures stopped. Panetta noted they resulted in little usable information.

Panetta worked on having the CIA, FBI, and NSA better sharing information.

Panetta refused to let the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to name CIA station chiefs. He also disagreed with Blair on Blair’s idea of agreeing with another country not to spy on each other, noting one does not know what the future holds. Panetta was glad when Jim Clapper took over for Blair in 2010.

There was much White House debate on responding to crises in Afghanistan. Obama accepted Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s proposal of sending 30,000 troops with 3,000 troops in reserve.

Among efforts that were successful was strong attacks against Al Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden.

Panetta became Defense Secretary when Gates stepped down Panetta was fine with agreeing to determine how to cut $400 billion from the Defense Department over the next decade, as Obama had promised. Panetta opposes across the board cuts as some areas could be cut more while others might even lead to higher costs if decreased. Panetta also supported allowing gays to openly serve in the military.

Panetta warns about future security risks, including attacks on the Internet, hacking into banks, hacking into the electric grid, etc.

In conclusion, Panetta views that fighting to preserve democracy is a “worthy fight.”


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