Obama Says Farewell To Defense Chief As Successor Awaits Vote

By Reuters

Published February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

President Barack Obama bade a fond farewell to retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a ceremony on Friday and voiced strong support for his nominated successor, Chuck Hagel, who was attacked by Republicans at a contentious Senate confirmation hearing last week.

Panetta, in his 19 months as Pentagon chief, ended the ban on women serving in front-line combat roles and oversaw the integration of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. The Iraq war ended and the last Afghanistan “surge” troops came home on his watch.

But he may be remembered most for his work before he came to the Pentagon in July 2011, as the CIA director who helped oversee the raid earlier that year that killed Osama bin Laden.

Obama noted the progress against al Qaeda under Panetta’s tenure and added that “we’ve been relentless against its affiliates.”

After citing Panetta’s accomplishments, Obama then turned to Hagel, the decorated combat veteran the president picked to take over at the Pentagon. Amid Republican maneuvering, Hagel still hasn’t had a nomination vote in the Senate.

A former two-term senator who fell out with his Republican Party over the Iraq war, Hagel faced harsh questioning at his nomination hearing last week from Republicans seeking to portray him as soft on Iran and anti-Israel.

Some Republicans have said they will not vote for Hagel, even though he is expected to win confirmation. Obama again gave Hagel his full-throated support.

“Keeping us prepared will be the mission of my nominee to be the next secretary of defense, a combat veteran with the experience, judgment, and vision that our troops deserve - Chuck Hagel,” Obama said.

Hagel would be the first Vietnam veteran to become defense secretary.

‘GET A DOG’

Panetta, who is expected to stay in the job until Hagel is confirmed, was often sentimental but also cracked jokes during his farewell speech. With his dog, Bravo, in attendance, he quipped how former U.S. President Harry Truman once remarked that if someone wants a friend in Washington, “get a dog.”

“And that’s just what I did,” laughed Panetta, whose five-decade political career also included being chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Panetta quipped that Bravo was in all of the meetings where the United States planned the bin Laden operation, as well as sensitive discussions at the Pentagon.

“And I want you to know that (Bravo) has never told a soul what he heard,” Panetta said. “He is definitely not a leaker - at least according to that definition of the word.”

Obama used the event to make an appeal for congressional action to come up with a deal to avoid automatic government spending cuts due to take effect on March 1, warning they “could have a severe impact on our military preparedness.”

“There is no reason, no reason for that to happen,” he said.

The White House also detailed the harsh consequences on ordinary Americans and the U.S. economy.

Panetta, who has made a series parting shots at Congress in recent weeks over its inaction on the looming cuts, sounded a hopeful tone in his speech.

“There’s no question that there remain some very significant challenges - the dangers and instability abroad, budget constraints, political gridlock here at home,” Panetta said.

“But one thing I have learned is that you cannot be involved in public service and not be optimistic about the future.” (Reporting by Phil Stewart and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Eric Beech)


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.