When the White House went looking for a credible figure to replace retiring defense secretary Robert Gates, Leon Panetta looked like the perfect candidate. His two-year tenure at the CIA had been a smashing success, and Panetta knew President Obama well from attending his daily intelligence briefings. But the president’s advisors may have forgotten the shouting matches they had with Panetta during the early months of his CIA tenure over control of intelligence programs, and now they are discovering that there is more to the former California congressman than just a longtime Democratic Party loyalist. Panetta has been speaking out about how cuts to the defense budget could harm national security and destroy so many jobs that the economy shrinks by one-percent. When the defense secretary suggested taking money out of entitlements rather than the military budget, Democratic operatives were outraged by what one called Panetta’s “craven collapse” before pressure from the military brass. It’s hard to imagine the White House is happy about the defense secretary’s warnings, which are irritating the party’s liberal base, undermining Obama’s carefully crafted national-security credentials, and highlighting contradictions in the administration’s jobs policies. I have written a commentary on the subject for Forbes, which you can read here.
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