Â Â Â Â Â Leon Panetta was confirmed by the US Senate as Secretary of Defense today by a vote of 100-0.Â That vote leaves us feeling, well, disillusioned andÂ somewhat Â depressed.Â Had the vote been 65-35, 80-20, or even 90-10, we would have been a little less upset, for we know we have a long way to go in returningÂ the SenateÂ to its former status as the greatest deliberative body in the history of Western politics, or so it was once touted.
Â Â Â Â When Panetta was confirmed as CIA Director in 2009, there was concern in some quarters that he didn’t have much, if any, of an intelligence background that would recommend him for the job.Â Nevertheless, he was confirmed by a voice vote, Â meaning no official objection. Panetta’s resume had included such things as congressman, policy wonk, Republican – then – Democrat, Chief of Staff to a President, think tank head, brief military service, conservationist and so on.Â Nothing that would disqualify him for the job, and some argued he had been in on national security and intelligenceÂ matters while sitting in on Presidential briefings and his well-roundedness and apparent lack of hard ideological bent smoothed the way.Â He was not a John Podesta; he was good ‘ole Leon Panetta.Â He could be a good little Agency head.
Â Â Â Â And that was fine, and would have remained fine, and while still wishing for a Caspar Weinberger, we would have suffered in silence upon learning of his nomination to be Boss of the Pentagon, and perhaps not have been moved to rant today, had it not been for one thing – Libya.Â When the Libyan fiasco was in its infancy, and President Obama was issuing wild statements about what was going on there, about who was attacking whom, and ‘citizens’ being targeted, and the specter of NATO and thus US involvement loomed and materialized, someone, somewhere had the audacity to ask “Who are the Libyan rebels?”Â Â The administration and its spokesmen hemmed and hawed and couldn’t give an answer.Â It was obvious that they had not evenÂ thought to concoctÂ one in advance to use if needed.
Â Â Â Â Leon Panetta did not know the answer.Â In fact, he hadÂ embarassed himself in front of congressional inquisitors onÂ Mid-East questions as recently as February regarding the situation in Egypt.Â And even after that disgrace, he didn’t buckle down and do his homework.Â Â Â Â Nor did heÂ have the wit or the wile or the Â presence of mind to dissemble, to make something up, to do whatever was necessary in a public forum to reassure or mollifyÂ the public, and say “We have assets engaged in the aquisition of relevant details…blah, blah, blah..”.Â Â What actually transpired in the matter of the ‘rebels’Â was that the Administration, and Panetta, finallyÂ reacted to aÂ burgeoning media interest in the matter by saying “Okay; we’ll look into it“Â ………having already committed to, and already started using, ships and planes and ordnance and personnel and money, lots and lots of money.
Â Â Â Â Â We do not know, to this day, who the Libyan rebels are.Â The latest from Panetta is that they ‘may very well’ include “extremists“.Â Oh, really.Â Not that the situation is exactly ‘in the past’ – it is very much an ongoing….fiasco.Â (And that is a major point of this piece.Â One would think that this episode would be fresh in the minds of the ….once and future ‘greatest deliberative body’ Â and all that jazz.) Â But there was a time, Leon, when we ‘very well may’ have been able to use that information,Â judiciously and perhaps pre-emptively,Â had you or your boss deigned to consider it an essential part of your job.
Â Â Â Â Leon Panetta does not know who is friend and who is foe.Â Â Leon Panetta is Secretary of the Department of Defense of the United States of America…by unanimous consent.Â Â Â Â And so as we sit here and stare at that vote total, we plaintively ask …”Someone?…..Anyone? …..Marco?”