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!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • 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.