Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

‘Small and Petty’ from Small and Petty

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO- The Corner

Deconstruct former Obama flack Bill Burton’s hit on Leon Panetta:

On Secretary Panetta, he is a guy who has had a long and storied career in Washington and has really served his country well. And it is kind of sad that in its twilight he’s done such a dishonorable thing by — at a time — by going after the president that he served at a time of a lot of different instabilities around the world.

I think if you ask the question, Do you think that Leon Panetta’s book helps or harms our interest, does it help or harm the credibility of this administration as the president is conducting the job of foreign policy and keeping our nation safe? It’s hard to say yes.

On the substance, this president has shown his leadership time and again. He’s made some tough calls. He has advanced our interest in very real ways. He got Osama bin Laden. He got our troops out of Afghanistan. He has moved this country in the right direction. And to attack his leadership I think is small and petty.

It may or may not be dishonorable for former high administration officials like Panetta and Gates to hype their books by dropping tidbits of sensational criticism of their former boss while he’s still in office (I think it might well be wrong for a variety of reasons), but Burton was absolutely quiet when Paul O’Neill and Scott McClellan became liberal heartthrobs for the minute of fame they got for trashing the president who appointed them, while he was still in office. And if Burton is worried about criticism of a sitting president by high officials during times of crisis, did he say much when Senator Barack Obama demagogued the surge by declaring that it was a failure and bound to make Iraq worse while thousands were in the field fighting for their lives? Or did Burton object to Hillary Clinton’s accusation that General David Petraeus, who was in charge of tens of thousands of Americans fighting Islamists in Iraq, was a veritable liar (her “suspension of disbelief” comment)? Not so much.

Burton then becomes laughable when he details Obama’s achievements. The Navy Seals, not Barack Obama “got Osama bin Laden.” (I don’t recall Burton or any others claiming that George Bush “got” Saddam Hussein or his sons, instead of the brave Special Forces who in fact did “get” them.

As for his assertion that President Obama ” got our troops out of Afghanistan”: as of now that is simply false. They are still there and so far only scheduled to leave this year, with a real sense of collective foreboding should they actually be gone by January 2015.

But note why Burton chose not to reference something that isabsolutely true — the often repeated 2012 campaign talking point, “He got our troops out of Iraq.” Burton ignores that truth because it set off a chain of events that ruined Iraq and nurtured the Islamic State, and was the worst strategic decision of the last decade.

As for Burton’s claim that “he has moved this country in the right direction,” more than 55 percent of the public disapprove of the president’s leadership; 65 percent believe the country is in fact headed in the wrong direction. And as for Burton’s “to attack his leadership I think is small and petty.” I suppose he means Leon Panetta’s book, but that angst about party members and team players not supporting a president in extremis could equally apply to the majority of Democratic House and Senate candidates vying for election this year who most certainly do not wish to appear on the stump with Barack Obama. That seems sort of “small and petty” given the fact that Obama is currently “conducting foreign policy and keeping our nation safe.”

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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