I think it's safe to say that Leon Panetta has nuked his bridges to the White House after last night's dishfest with Bill O'Reilly. To borrow a Hollywood phrase, he'll never work in that town again. Rightly so.
Panetta, after all, enjoyed the benefit of two prestigious appointments by this president, walked out with the status that comes with those, and promptly wrote a tell-all book reinforcing every right-wing national security meme out there. Now he is on tour to all of the cable news channels ahead of the midterms in order to whine about how we're not killing enough people in Syria and Iraq, while conveniently ignoring the role Bush played in the Status of Forces Agreement with Maliki.
His chat with BillO indicates the man is captive to the agencies he ran though he did stand tall for Hillary Clinton. Just not the current President of the United States.
Before being appointed CIA director, Panetta's highest-ranking job was Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff and Chairman of the House Budget Committee where he constantly worried over budget deals and pushed to cut defense and national security spending. Then he was appointed director of the CIA, and suddenly became an expert on intelligence, the Middle East, and killing brown people. Because national security or something. While he was Defense Secretary, he bleated about how defense couldn't take any more cuts, but it was totally fine to cut social programs. Just save the bombs, baby.
The Daily Beast's Michael Cohen really nailed it.
At both Langley and the Pentagon he became a forceful advocate for—or, some might say, bureaucratic captive of—the agencies he ran. As CIA Director he pushed back on efforts to expose the agency’s illegal activities during the Bush Administration —in particular, the use of torture (which he had once decried).
At DoD he ran around with his hair practically on fire denouncing cuts to the defense budget in out-sized, apocalyptic terms. The “catastrophic,” “draconian” cuts would initiate a “doomsday mechanism” and “invite aggression,” he claimed and always without specific examples. Ironically, when Panetta was chairman of the House Budget Committee in the early 1990s, he took the exact opposite position and pushed for huge cuts to the defense budget.
For Panetta, principles appear to be determined by wherever he happens to be sitting at any given moment.
Read it all to see just how craven Leon Panetta has become.
If Panetta's principles are defined by where he's sitting, then sitting in the chair on Bill O'Reilly's show is a leading indicator of what those principles are and are not. Whether his motive is some twisted effort to set the stage for Hillary Clinton or just trashing the guy who appointed him as Defense Secretary and CIA Director is known only to Panetta.
But what I do know is this: Panetta is finished in Washington, DC. Kaput. No Democrat will ever appoint him to dogcatcher, much less another position of responsibility. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him switch back to the Republican party, which is where he began and apparently where he still belongs.
Here's a warning for Hillary, too. If you think it's a good idea to hire Panetta to do as much as stuff envelopes for your 2016 campaign, you should reconsider now. What Leon Panetta is trying to do is divide Democrats right down the middle. You will not win without Obama voters, and Obama voters will not stand for what Panetta is doing right now.
It's patently obvious that Leon Panetta wants a full-scale war in the Middle East because that's what the people in the agencies he oversaw want. It's a nearsighted, narrow, and decidedly right-wing desire that is inconsistent with progressive principles and ideas.
The best thing Leon Panetta could do right now is go back to Monterrey and enjoy the sunsets in the West. Stick a fork in him. He's done.