It’s not often that a former defense secretary calls a sitting president an incompetent liar on national television.
But that’s exactly what Leon Panetta did Tuesday night in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
And the results were “utterly devastating” for President Obama.
That was the take from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who summed up Panetta’s sometimes carefully worded responses bluntly.
“He was basically saying this president cannot lead,” Krauthammer said. “He’s indecisive and he’s weak.’
And he’s driven more by the Democrat politics of his liberal base than by the national security of the country.
“It’s not just indecisiveness and how tentative Obama is,” Krauthammer said. “But also about how political he is. “
As usual, Krauthammer nailed it.
During the interview, part of a promotional tour for Panetta’s insider memoir “Worthy Fights,” O’Reilly hammered on the disastrous developments on the world stage in the two years since Obama’s re-election. Panetta offered weak defenses for the president that were barely defenses at all.
Do our enemies fear us? O’Reilly asked at one point.
“The last two years have been a lot of mixed messages,” Panetta answered.
He all but admitted the administration’s response to the Benghazi terror attack in 2012 (an allegedly spontaneous reaction to a video almost nobody saw) was a lie to the American people. The contrast between Panetta’s responses and the president’s during his Super Bowl interview with O’Reilly was particularly damaging to Obama.
He acknowledged the White House had been caught by surprise by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist army in Iraq and Syria – even the summer’s border crisis that saw tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Central American overwhelm American border facilities in the Southwest.
And he offered possibly the most damning judgment possible of a man entrusted to lead the world’s superpower: Incompetence verging on cowardice.
“Barack Obama has the guts to do the right thing, the real question is, will he make the decision to do so?” Panetta said. “He knows what needs to be done. What he’s got to do is develop the will to fight – to get into the ring, in order to make it happen.”
There’s no way for Democrats to sugar coat that kind of judgment about a man they once hailed as the savior of the country – not when it comes from another man Krauthammer called “an icon of the Democratic Party.”
Check out the three-part O’Reilly interview with Panetta – and O’Reilly’s follow-up interview with Krauthammer — here.
“Utterly devastating” indeed.
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