5 Things You Missed In Panetta’s Memoir
http://thehill.com/policy/ defense/220461-5-things-you- missed-in-panettas-memoir
By Kristina Wong – 10/11/14 09:09 AM EDT
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s new memoir, Worthy Fights, has garnered attention for its tough critique of President Obama’s foreign policy.
But the book includes many other revealing stories from Panetta, a long-time Washington insider, who also served in the House of Representatives and in other administrations.
Here are five interesting revelations from Panetta’s book:
1) In 2010, CIA operatives located an al Qaeda operative directly responsible for a suicide bombing attack on an agency base in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans.
Panetta struggled with whether to order a strike against the operative at his home, where his wife and two children also lived, according to intelligence reports.
After consulting with the White House, Panetta finally ordered the strike, and the operative was killed, along with his wife.
“We all understood that if our target was spared in order to protect his family, he would strike at us again, and without the compunctions that we had regarding the death of civilians,” Panetta writes.
2) Panetta didn’t intend to resign from the Nixon administration in 1970.
At the time, Panetta was heading the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Office of Civil Rights.
The job had put him at odds with some Southern conservatives who wanted to slow the desegregation of public schools and Panetta felt he did not have the support of the White House.
Panetta submitted a letter of resignation to the White House, intending it to be a symbolic protest and which his then-boss, Secretary Bob Finch, rejected.
His opponents within the administration, though, seized on the incident to push him out.
On Feb. 17, 1970, Panetta woke up to read a Washington Daily News headline claiming: “Nixon seeks to fire HEW’s rights chief for liberal views.”
It was reported that Panetta had submitted his letter of resignation, and that it was accepted. Panetta drafted a new letter of resignation and submitted it to Finch.
3) Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law, then-Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.), saved President Clinton’s fiscal year 1994 budget as a freshman lawmaker.
In 1993, Panetta was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. While the House and Senate passed a budget on close votes, Congress still had to vote on a reconciliation bill.
When Mezvinksy first voted no, Panetta sent then House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) to the chamber to turn her around. She agreed to switch to yes if Clinton agreed to visit her district and explain the bill to her constituents.
Panetta agreed, and the bill passed by one vote.
Panetta was also responsible for dispatching aides to find Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) during the Senate’s vote. He had slipped out to see the movie “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
“I don’t often lose my temper, but I did then,” Panetta writes, describing his use of several expletives.
4) On President Clinton’s birthday in 1995, Panetta, who was then the White House Chief of Staff, and his two deputies, Erskine Bowles, and Harold Ickes, rode horses around the White House grounds.
The incident is captured in a photo in the book, showing the three men in jeans, button-down shirts and cowboy hats.
“None of us is much of a cowboy,” Panetta writes in the caption.
5) Panetta saved the Naval Postgraduate School from closure.
In 1976, Florida Democrat Rep. Bob Sikes, then-chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, was reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for not disclosing holdings he had in a Pensacola bank he helped establish and a company that profited from defense work.
Panetta and fellow freshman lawmakers successfully circulated a letter demanding that Sikes be removed from his chairmanship. Sikes then took aim at the school, located in Panetta’s district.
Panetta writes that he confronted Sikes directly, urging him not to get even with him in a way that would harm the military. The school survived, and Sikes retired soon after.