Can Monterey native Leon Panetta help rally support for President Barack Obama? Considering the former’s long and admirable track record, probably so — although nothing will ever quiet the president’s critics, not even a birth certificate. Two news stories out of Washington D.C. Wednesday are the topics of Thursday’s Sentinel Editorials, posted forthwith:
Leon Panetta continues to give new meaning to the words “government service.”
At an age when other men would have long ago retired to a life of speeches and monthly appearances at board meetings, Panetta’s career arc is growing ever wider.
Officials in the Obama Administration confirmed Wednesday what had been speculated for weeks — that the 72-year-old Panetta, currently director of the Central Intelligence, will succeed Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense this summer. Gen David Petraeus, current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will be nominated to replace Panetta at CIA.
Panetta is a native son — born in Monterey to Italian immigrant parents and a graduate of Monterey High School. He got his start in the federal government as a Republican, heading up the Office of Civil Rights under President Richard Nixon, only to run afoul of the president’s men when he actually dared to enforce civil rights laws.
He later changed his party registration to Democrat, won a seat in Congress in 1976, and was reelected nine times. He represented much of Santa Cruz County during that time. Panetta left Congress to join the administration of President Bill Clinton, first as budget director, then as chief of staff.
When he left Washington, he returned with his wife, Sylvia, to found the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at Cal State Monterey Bay, a state university that owes its existence to Panetta’s powers of persuasion.
President Barack Obama tapped Panetta to head the CIA in 2008 — a move greeted with raised eyebrows by many Washington hands. After some initial controversy, Panetta settled in and reportedly has become popular with agency lifers.
The CIA job, where he has traveled the world several times and developed a deep understanding of the U.S. military’s efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots, will prove invaluable if, as expected, he is confirmed to the new job.
Moreover, Panetta’s experience as former White House budget chief gives him both the expertise that with his long experience in Washington should help in cutting defense spending. Gates has already come up with $400 billion in cuts to the defense budget over the next 10 years, and Obama wants $400 billion more.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who initially questioned Panetta’s qualifications for CIA, on Wednesday called him perhaps “the most skilled person in government … able to handle anything that comes at him.”
That will be Panetta’s task. As the consummate public servant, whose integrity and candor have served this country well for decades, we have no doubt he’ll find a way to pare wasteful spending while keeping America safe.
The certificate, posted at the White House website, shows that Obama was born in Honolulu, and is signed by state officials and his late mother. But does anyone really believe this will end the “silliness” that has kept this issue in the news for two and a half years and fueled claims the president was not born in the United States, making him under the Constitution an illegitimate president?
Even the president Wednesday conceded there would be a “segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest” — which he decried as “sideshows and carnival barkers.” and a distraction from dealing with serious issues.
Predictably, Republican would-be presidential aspirant Donald Trump took credit for forcing Obama to post the certificate, and then proclaimed it would have to be examined for authenticity.
OK — but while the birthers are at it, they should also examine Trump for the very same quality.