Leon Panetta: Worthy Fights


I do solemnly swear that I. will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign investor. That I will bear to faith and allegiance to the scene that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the Office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. Help me God so God. Welcome to the oath, and for many of you welcome back, I'm Chuck Rosenberg and I am honored to be your host for another compelling conversation with fascinating guests from the world of Public Service This is our season three premiere. And I am very pleased to share a conversation with Leon Panetta, one of the most distinguished and most accomplished public servants in American history. Leon was raised in Monterey California. The place where his father Carmelo the youngest of thirteen children, all born in Italy ultimately settled. Carmelo, Panetta could not have dreamed. He could not have imagined that his son Leon would serve eight terms in the United States House of Representatives as the director of the Office of Management and Budget as the White House, Chief of staff as the director of the C. I. A., and as the Secretary of defense. It has been a remarkable career and a remarkable life for Leon, Panetta a humble, thoughtful, intelligent and kind man. I had the opportunity to interview Leon in his office at the Panetta Institute on the campus of Cal State University Monterey Bay. With his dog BUBBA and his dog in law copper. Side Leon Panetta welcome to the oath. Good to be with you and thank you for having me to your office and the campus of Calcutta. University Monterey, Bay it's a campus that is located on. What was the old Fort Ord military reservation when I was in Congress? We fought the process on closing four door for about two rounds and lost on the third round they closed for Ord, which was about twenty five percent of the local economy, so you can imagine it was a pretty good blow, and the community came together and. decided that a campus would be a good re use of the base and we were able to get California State University. The chancellor guy named. Berry, Munis was very helpful, and we located the campus here now it's a thriving campus and I guess I've always said it's the ultimate conversion of swords into Plowshares, but I wanted to go back even further than the creation of this wonderful campus. Because in your book you write about Your Father. Coming to the United States from his native Italy on a ship called the providence third. Class passenger with twenty five dollars in his pocket. What a remarkable story! It was something I've always been. Fascinated by to think that you know here's somebody who comes from a peasant background in Calabria, Italy and his village was one of those located up in the mountains. Call Geraci Super Yorkie, which means mountains. It's kind of a walled city up there. They were in the countryside and you know we're truly peasants. He served in. World, War One the Italian army and fought in the. The Battle of the Pov valley, which was pretty brutal battle. He did talk about his memories from that battle. He was wounded, ultimately he was able to get out, and it was soon after he got out of the military that he made the decision to come over to this country had several brothers who had come over ahead of him his oldest brother. Bruno settled in Sheridan Wyoming. and. He had another brother who was closer to him. Tony. My father was the youngest of thirteen, and he had close relationship with Tony, and I think because of that he really wanted to come over and to suddenly leave your home, country and travel thousands of miles. This is not like there was Google or the internet or any idea where the hell he was going, he just decided to get on a ship. The Providence, my young son was the one who looked up that ship, and actually gave me a photo of that ship that I got up on the wall. He also looked up the manifest. And manifest had Carmelo Panetta. Occupation peasant while. He had twenty five bucks in his pocket. Which you know twenty five bucks a at that time probably wasn't a paltry sum, but it's what he had came through Ellis, island. And I think ultimately actually made his way out to California where Tony was located and spent some time working. I think in some of the restaurants in California. And then sometime in the late twenties decided that he wanted to go back to Italy to find a wife, and went back and found my mother fortunately for you absolutely. But you were born in Monterey. I was born in Monterey when they came over together after my father and mother met and married in Italian families, it was more of an arrangement than something where you kind of fall in love, but my dad's spotted my mother in the back of a church in my mother's hometown to near Rachel. Sabra Saderno is what it's called. Saderno Medina which is near the ocean. And he was in a church there good size church, and he was in the back, and my mother and her sisters came to church, any spotted my mother, and then the next step was to go to the family. He went to my my no new, my grandfather and my Nana and asked permission. To be able to go with her, and then hopefully marry, and it was on the basis that he would be bringing her back to America and my grandmother didn't like the idea that she would be going to America but my grandfather. Who was? A merchant marine. Sailed around the world on the old sailing ships. And had been everywhere from Australia to. God knows where to America Mino. New Said No, no, no, no, it's America is a great country and We shouldn't worry it'll be. It'll be good for them. to be able to do that, so my parents got married and came over there first. Stop with with his older brother. Bruno in Sheridan Wyoming and I've often said this that that they spent one winter shared. Shared in Wyoming and my mother said it's time to visit your other brethren. California your parents had grown up in southern Europe. It had to be a bit cold. Yeah, it was sign of a shock to their system to go through a winner in Sheridan. They managed to make it out to California and my dad. I was working in some restaurants in southern California, and then they made it up here to Monterrey. I've often wondered why I was blessed with having been born in Monterey I think it was because he had a friend who is also Kala. Bracy who he knew from Wyoming who was located in Monterey Fella named Dominic loose cree. And I think he came here to hook up with Dominic. And he worked in a restaurant locally and then. Working with Dominic, they established a restaurant. And Bar together. In Downtown Monterrey. I was a corner property Carmelo's cafe. It was Carmelo's cafe on one side Dominique's bar on the other side and there was a swinging door between the bar and the restaurant. I think this was late thirties or early forties and Monterey. Time was just a jump in town here there was it was a fishing community subject of Steinbeck's cannery row. Exactly I was Steinbeck who then wrote about You know cannery row, which was a whole set of canneries that were canning the sardines that were being caught, and the wives of fishermen who are catching it usually were working in the canneries in addition to that with four roared now this military reservation it was a major training post for young men from across the country. Who are being trained for the battlefield, so? World War Two and so. You can imagine the Monterey was kind of their last stop was civilization before they go to war so downtown Monterey I remember as a kid. It was full of soldiers in uniform sailors. They were MP's who are watering Alvarado Street to make sure that you didn't get in trouble. my mother, who handled the cash register at the restaurant had a button under her cash register to call the MP's. In case they got online. The soldiers would come in. They love to get Spaghetti and meatballs from my father's restaurant, but then they immediately go into dominatrix for drinks. Order drinks there one swinging. Swinging doorway, and every once in a while, they got unruly and my mother had to push that button. My earliest recollections were. As a young boy! I was standing on a chair in the back of that restaurant washing glasses. It was all done with hot water. You've lower the glasses into the hot water and then rinse I was doing some of that. And I have often said it's because my parents believed that child labor was a requirement. But, it was a great experience i. When I became secretary of Defense I remembered back to those days because my parents would invite. The soldiers particularly if they were a lot of Italian, soldiers from New York. They were coming by, but they would invite them to our house. For the holidays Christmas. Easter I can remember them. You know enjoying you know my mother's food talking Italian. And thinking to myself these young men are going to go off to war. God knows what's going to happen to them. And I thought about that as secretary. Because the toughest job I had as secretary of defense was to sign those deployment orders that place these young. Men and women in uniform now place them in harm's way, and in fact you had to sign those orders as Secretary of defense. That was your obligation. That's right every week. died sit down. And we would go over all of the deployment orders for the various units, and a lot of that was to the war zones I want to go back to Monterey for just a moment, though because it sounds like a wonderful place to grow up in Monterey. The Monterey Bay but Monterey. Has You know it has a downtown area? But then rising up from downtown area is hill area. It was known as Spaghetti Hill, because a lot of the Italians lived up there. And My parents lived up there on Van Buren Street, in Monterey, my brother was five years old than I and we spent a lot of time playing with other kids up there. It was community where families took care of each other and took care of the children that were there. It was really kind of a community feeling to grow up there. I can remember. Going to Catholic Grammar School. And walking from Spaghetti Hill van Buren street I think I walked about ten blocks. To the grammar school and you think about that these days. The buses, all of that, you know, no, no, we was five is just A. Little Kid about seven seven eight years old, and we would walk all of that distance to go to the Catholic school and walk back. It was a great place to grow up because there were a lot of other Italian families, but it was also a great community in many ways. This community traces its history back to Spanish. To Father Sarah who came through this community, but a lot of the early explorers settled here actually a presidio was built up. Here Spanish military unit was placed here at the presidio. The Admiral sloat landed at Monterey and actually placed the flag of the United States here in Monterey, proclaiming California as part of the United States. And that took place in Monterey. The community was a real mix of a lot of different races and beliefs and creeds, and everybody really did get along a good community. You tell a wonderful story in a moving story in your book about your mother's father, your grandfather no-no. Yeah, joining you here as a tourist as a visitor, but getting swept up in some of the World War Two internment hysteria, it can imagine as a young boy. Who got very close to my grandfather, he had come over to visit my mother. In nineteen thirty eight shortly after I was born. What happened was. That, the war broke out, and of course, Italy was an ally of Germany and that war they would not allow my grandfather to go back to Italy and for the first few years he lived with us. In, Monterey And largely took care of my brother and I particularly me. Because I was the youngest and got to know him. Really well. He was a loving guy and a big guy over six feet tall. Love to talk with other Italians and they were engage in these long conversations about the war and Mussalini and what the hell was going to happen in the war and I can remember playing around while he was talking, and he'd have one of these Tuscan Ellie cigars in his mouth and his hat on, and he would be talking with them, they could. Could just hear that even today you know those voices of all these Italian talking, and he would bring me down to the wharf, and we'd fish off the war orphan. He was a fisherman at one point in the area. Then what happened was for some reason. I mean we know that Japanese obviously were all gathered up and put into internment camps. But for some reason, there was a decision made that if you were an Italian. That you could not live near the coastal areas. An order went out to move all of these Italians inland and so my grandfather had to be moved. To San Jose. which isn't that far away? It's kind of silly. What happened here, but we had to pack them up. We found a boarding house in San Jose. And we all drove up together and I can remember as a young boy. Really feeling shattered, that are no news, not going to be with us, and had to be placed in in San Jose, and I think that went on for well over a year year and a half, and eventually you know. He came back and live with us before he went back to Italy, but I never forgot. That experience because you know I had a little bit of the feeling of what the Japanese might felt. In terms of being in turn, our treatment of Japanese Americans in that period was a real dark stain on the country and the same court decision that affirmed their removal and relocation. Komatsu probably one of the two or three worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court, but many people don't know that some German Americans and some Italian Americans and then some Italian aliens like your grandfather were also moved. Yeah, yeah, no, no, it's It's kind of a forgotten part of history. It brought home. To me, how truly fragile our democracy can be and what can happen in those kinds of crises, our democracy, our rule of law is really just a construct. It's made by people. It's preserved by people that can be undermined by people exactly exactly you had the remarkable opportunity to serve a Monterey in the United States, Congress, first elected in Nineteen, seventy six. I can only imagine how. How your father must have process that his son, becoming a member of the Congress of the United States I was really happy that my father was alive when I got elected to Congress, my mother had died of cancer, but my father actually went back to Italy, a remarried brought my stepmother back to the country. We were living in Carmel Valley that's where the family home was. And what my dad did was he built a little house? A guesthouse moved into that guest house and Sylvia and and the boys moved into the main house. Sylvia your wife Yeah, so we, my wife and or three sons? Moved into the main House A to. Make the decision to run for Congress was something I mean I I'd been in Washington I'd worked as a legislative assistant for a senator from California it was. He was a Republican senator from California Thomas, Kiko Time Kiko came out of The Hiram Justin. legacy in California Hiram Johnson. Was a Republican governor in California. Who is very progressive? supported civil rights supported labor laws in a whole series of reforms, actually the initiative process. was created by Hiram Johnson that Progressive Republican tradition carried on with Earl Warren became governor goody night Tom Kiko came out of that Legacy Dwight Eisenhower exactly Kiko and Eisenhower were very close because of that tradition, and when I got out of the army after two years service I was able to get the job with Tom Keikel. And went back. And Kiko was the minority whip. I often say I've seen Washington at its best in Washington at its worst I. Recall those days because Republicans light. Kiko like Jacob Javits like Clifford case from new. Jersey Hugh Scott from Pennsylvania. George Aitken from Vermont Mark Hatfield from Oregon. We're working with Democrats. Like Jackson and Magnuson, Dick, Russell Sam Ervin and Fulbright were giants, but they work together on legislation and that was true, and I actually was elected to Congress I work with Keikel. He was defeated by right winger. It was the beginning of the division in the Republican Party Max. Rafferty was his name. And he ran against Keikel in the primary and beat him, and so I was out of a job as a result of that. And then got picked by another kind of Republican liberal by the name of Bob Finch, who became secretary of hew, and eventually appointed me as director of the Office for Civil Rights. I was a believer in civil rights worked on civil rights laws with Kiko and ultimately ran into something, called the southern strategy that Nixon had developed where he wanted to back off of civil rights. Now I didn't eventually lost my job. As a result of that went to work for mayor. Lindsay in New York City and other liberal Republican, and then eventually made my way back to Monterey, but in the process decided that be better off becoming a Democrat because Republicans were beginning to have these divisions that were beginning to split the party I was asked whether I'd be interested. In running for Congress and I was in practice with my brother practicing law and you know and I had to kind of make a tough decision. We had our family. We have three boys. We were living in the house in Carmel Valley and really loving it and Congress Washington DC very long way from Washington's a long way to go you know for the first time we had moved a lot. We'd moved in the army. A number of times We moved You know when we came back to California. And we finally settled in our home and he was decision that you know. We really had to think long and hard about, but Sylvia was very supportive and she got very much involved in the campaign. As she had with almost every other thing I've done in my life, which has been extremely important to my career, but more importantly I think it was important for our relationship, so she helped run the campaign. We made the decision I run. She ran the campaign. I was running against A. Republican incumbent. Guy Named Burt Talcott. And TALCOTT had been in office for about twelve or thirteen years, but he had gotten to the point where he was starting to not come home. And started to anger some of his own constituents. and it was almost the right time to Take them on, but it was a Republican incumbent, and so it took a lot of work in those days I think about the amount of money we had to race when I ran. I think it was about one hundred eighty five thousand dollars to run that campaign, and we raise it all locally. Doing little fundraisers with people must have seemed like a fortune back then. When? Jimmy, my youngest son recently ran for Congress and was elected, but you know he had to raise almost over a million dollars to run and Reagan Congressional races these as obviously are an excess of a million dollars. We struggle. We raise the money, and eventually you know. I won by about three or four percentage. which was a great moment and that night, after I had been declared a winner I walked over to my father's little house and walked in, and he had been watching and He embraced me and I really felt very proud, because I knew how proud he felt. That here he was an immigrant, not much money in his pocket it come to this country worked hard, and now his son had just been elected to the congress. It was a great moment. It's an extraordinary story. You tell a very charming story about the legendary Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill coming out to campaign for you, and then he almost got your name right. That's right. tip as a wonderful guy and obviously Democrats Democrat from Boston. We asked him to do a fundraiser that we got a house for it. And he came up. He gave us kind of rip roaring speech about it and said I want all of you. To Support Leo Mineta. And the problem was there was a guy named Norman etta. who had been elected to the Congress two years before? THAT MINETA WAS ITALIAN I always kid them that the reason he got elected was because they thought he was Italian who is a Japanese Japanese American who would actually be been had gone to intern camp, but he became mayor of San Jose great success story tip used to always get US mixed up and everybody laughed at the fundraiser and tip realize what he had done. Tip was just one of these genuine old Paul's from Massachusetts. Who I think had a great heart. And he also had a good sense of what was right for the country, regardless of Party William Mineta is close enough to Leon Panetta seemed to work. Did. I remember after I got elected This was in the Carter Administration. And the white. House would call. They would ask. If I would come to the White House. To greet the Japanese Prime Minister and. I said I think you've got the wrong guy think you're trying to get norm. Annetta and norm used to get calls from the White House. When the Italian prime minister came, so we were always confused finally. Norman I decided to put a team together baseball team. We said we played under the sign of the rising pizza. We had a great time playing around with with each other's problem. Being identified as either Italian or Japanese, I know, you took the oath of office as an army officer, but what was it like to get sworn in as a new member of in January of Nineteen, seventy seven? You know I've got a great picture. Of that swearing in. The right behind me here signed by tip O'Neill signed by tip O'Neill. And it was that the great moment of going over to the floor. Of the House of Representatives with all the new members, you raise your right hand. And Tip administered the oath. It's one of those moments you never forget because you think of. The history of what? Gave me particularly as the son of immigrants. A chance to be elected to Congress. and to be able to serve. In really one of the. Great Democratic Institutions of our democracy as a member of Congress. One of the things I always used to recall was walking over from the cannon building. I have my office in the cannabis at night. And looking up at the Capitol, which was all in lights I always had that feeling of all. That here I was serving in the pinnacle of our democracy, which is the the House of Representatives? house of the people and I always. Recalled, that kind of special feeling that I had been blessed with a tremendous opportunity to be able to be able to get elected and serve our democracy used to get the same feeling by the way when I walked in the Oval Office having served the president. and I'd walk into the Oval Office, and they'd be there by myself and looking around and say I am at the center of power. Not just for this country, but the world. I always had that feeling when I would walk into the FBI or the Department of Justice I. I can't believe that I'm here and I. Hope that nobody. Figures out that I don't belong throws me out I. Always felt like an impostor. Always I always had that that sense that maybe at some point they're going to say you know you're in the wrong place, but you know it. It is a remarkable statement about kind of the heart and soul of what makes our democracy great while you were serving in Congress. You took a great interest in the preservation of the California coast I mean yeah, you have a strong record as an environmentalist, well I. You know I was representing the Central Coast to California and Monterey. And here we've got the big Sur coastline. We've got Cypress, point and Pebble Beach. You've got Santa Cruz the coast line, and and it's a remarkable coastline and I I've often said that John Kennedy used to say that the ocean is the salt in our veins and. I really felt that way as a as a young person. Born and raised along this coast so I go back to Congress representing this this beautiful coastline and the first thing I run into. Is secretary what? secretary of Interior in the Reagan administration who decides city's GonNa put up for sale, all of our coastline for offshore drilling, and that really concerns me. I asked a Republican congressman who represented the Mendocino coast, which is also attractive, those are the days when you work with Republicans I asked him to meet with Watt and I said to the Secretary I said you know I understand that there are areas. That could be developed for offshore drilling, but I said there are also national treasures, likely seventy or yellowstone on our coastline that ought to be protected for the future and I said you know my coastline. Is that way? The Mendocino coast lines that way and I'll never forget. He walked up to a picture in. The Congressman's Office of the Mendocino coast and he said that's a great location for an offshore drilling. Rick and I said Oh. My God I'm in trouble, so authored as a result of that meeting I authored legislation. To create a moratorium. It was put on the appropriations bill and what I said was no funds in this bill. It was the interior bill. will be allowed for proceeding with offshore drilling. And I got an act. IT IS A. Bipartisan and we had a lot of the coastal delegations were supported. But but then I thought, and we actually got that moratorium passed I. Think almost twenty years in a row. But I was worried that if we ever had a gas crisis. That I would I would lose that legislation, so I decided to go for more permanent protection particularly for for the Monterey. Coastline, so I actually developed legislation. To create a Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. And it established what at that time was the largest marine sanctuary and the United? States are marine sanctuary stretches from the Farallon islands all the way down to San. SIMEONE and I've always been proud of the fact that we have now protected that area from any kind of offshore drilling, also an extraordinary legacy. It's Chris what am I proud moments as a legislator. Hi, everyone, it's joy, Reid host of am joy on MSNBC. Did you know you can listen to am joy, and all your favorite MSNBC shows as podcasts? You can catch up on the beat with Ari Melber the Rachel Maddow show the eleventh hour with Brian Williams and more anytime on the go search for your favorite MSNBC shows wherever you're listening to this podcast and subscribe for free. Thanks for listening. You survey terms in Congress I served eight terms was actually elected to my ninth term. President Clinton asked me to come into the administration as the director of office of Management and Budget, director of the Office of Management and Budget, I had been in the Congress said worked up to Chairman of the House Budget Committee we had begun. Something that nobody talks about these days which was the concern about growing deficits, and at that time we had deficits that were approaching three, hundred billion and going up to what we thought might be six hundred billion, which we thought would really be devastating for the economy. It began in the Reagan administration actually President Reagan. called one of the first summits really where we came together to try to develop a deficit reduction package, and then in the Bush administration I George Bush. We actually went out to Andrews. Air Force Base Republicans and Democrats and representatives from the administration to work out a budget deal that involved five hundred billion dollars in deficit reduction. two hundred and fifty billion out of largely entitlement programs and two hundred fifty billion of revenue tax increases. Tough package, but we worked at out and got it passed. It was a tough vote, but you know to the credit of President Bush. who had to move his lips? you know from what he campaigned on which was read my lips, no new taxes, he made a tough decision I have often told him. He made the right decision, and it was tough and he may have cost him. His reelection might very well have been one of the reasons. You know it cost him his election, but you know it's it's I. Always say that true leaders have to take risks of leadership and do the right thing if they think it's the right thing for the country. They need to do it in my very well. Cost Him an election, but they can always. Always live with the satisfaction of knowing. They did the right thing. Anyway, I was it was proud of having worked on that package and I think it was. It was the reason that Bill Clinton, who had had also run against Ross. Perot in that race and Perot had identified the deficit as a big issue and bill. Clinton Credit knew that he would have to do additional steps to reduce the deficit and I think that was the reason. He asked me to become director alone. Andy now. You also worked for president. Clinton as his chief of staff, I'd been in the Office of the director of MB. We passed the Clinton budget, which was tough and other five hundred billion deficit reduction past reconciliation, which is the bill to implement that which means raising taxes and getting the savings from a number of programs, but we got it done. It was tough. I think we passed it by one vote in the house and the vice president's vote in the Senate, I was doing the appropriation spills. And I really felt very good about what I was able to accomplish For the president, but more importantly for the country. I think it was Al Gore. Who was a classmate of mine when I got elected to Congress? And he was vice president came up to me and said something like You Know Leon I think. The president is thinking about having you as chief of staff. I said look I, you know I I really enjoy the job of be director and I think I'm doing a good job for the administration on budget and on the appropriations, and besides that very frankly, the White House was in chaos. There was very little organization. A lot of people would be going to meetings. There was no discipline really within the White House and I thought the last thing. I need is to have to take control of that place, so somebody needed to. Sit I said you know I'm better off as director and beat well. The next thing I knew also that the president wanted to see me up at Camp David. So I went up to the vice president's House to pick up helicopter there, and we flew up to Camp David and I walked into the presidential cabin there. And there was President Clinton and Hillary Clinton Al Gore and Tipper Gore and myself. And I knew that I was being put into a corner. Outnumbered, I was totally outnumbered. The president asked me if I would become chief of staff and I I said the same thing I said. You know Mr President I really think I'm serving you in a very important role as director of Oh and be. We've just passed the budget. We've just past reconciliation. You know we're passing all the appropriations bills on time. something that never happened for a long time and I said I think I'm I'm really important. The budget is going to your legacy and I think it will be you know I! Think I can help protect that and I never forgot Clinton's words. He said Leon. Did you know? You can be. The most famous. Director of Owen be in the history of the country. But if the White House is falling apart, nobody will remember you. So I said. All right Mr President I went ahead and of course president. Ask you to do something you feel obligated to do it and I did tough job. Tough job I add conditions matter of fact. after I came down from camp. David I went to see mack McLarty. Who was my predecessor as Chief of staff? He knew what was going on I said Mac I I need to look. At an organization chart for the White House and he said you know Leon I don't believe I've ever seen one of those and I thought man. I really am screwed. There's the problem. And so I almost had to rely a great deal on my army experience, because it was about a publishing chain of command who would report to process? Yeah, a process of discipline and supervision on the various staff members in the Clinton administration. There were a lot of people who carried this title of console to the President which meant that they could go to all the meetings talk, but never had any responsibility for doing anything and so I get. Get rid of all. The consoles to the president and stabbed. You know a clear chain of command I had two deputy chiefs of Staff, one for personnel, one for scheduling and people under them that they would be responsible for decided to try to control access to the Oval Office did that work. It did because Bill Clinton recognized that it had to be done as a matter of fact John Kelly when he became chief of staff to President Trump. Called me and said what do I need to do and John Kelly had worked for you directly. He had worked for me as a military when I was secretary of Defense. I said John I said. You know you're a marine. You need to have a strong chain of command. You need have disciplined. You need to control access to the White House. You need to establish systems for policy development so that the president is well served by those that are experts and know the issues and percents those options to the president. The biggest problem you have is the President I was working for knew that he had to be disciplined. He was smart enough to know. That he was not going to get reelected. If the White House was in chaos on, so he was willing to go along with the discipline. I said. You're working for somebody who I'm not sure. Really understands what disciplined about. He said I know but I. I really think I can try to apply. That same kind of framework, so it was really interesting, because in many ways I think John was dealing with some of the same chaos I added to deal with this UH chief of staff I would imagine every white. House has some degree of chaos and some degree of discipline. It's just a question of the ratio. You're absolutely right. It's It is a a huge responsibility to suddenly walk into the Oval Office. And realize? The dimensions of what you're now responsible for, and even as somebody who's worked there I can't imagine. The sense of walking into the Oval Office and realizing. That now a lot of what's happening in this country and in the world is going to be on your shoulders, and it is and the responsibility now of pulling together a team. Of People. Who you can trust who are good advisers who understand the issues you're dealing with so that you're presented with the best advice possible because these are always complicated tough issues that you're dealing with and you always WanNa. Give the president options. That was my approach any president I think it's really important that the policy making process does a good job of analysing the particular issue or crisis. You're dealing with and then. Presents a set of options to the president. S to what steps ought to be taken. You know sometimes there's consensus sometimes there's not but I. Think the ability to give president in the United States. A set of options gives the president the room that is needed. In order to be able to evaluate. What do I have to do? That's in the interest of the country, so we really do need to develop that process. You need to have good people in the cabinet who are running the departments in? And then under them, good deputies and responsible people who also are dedicated to their jobs. The one thing you learn very fast as president. Is that you know you can want all kinds of things to happen. But. It's not going to happen unless you have good people. In those jobs who are willing to make it happen for you and being able to delegate. Authority being able to energize that team to feel like they're part of this broader team is really one of the great challenges of any President going into the Oval Office. I know when you left the Clinton White House at the end of president. Clinton's second term return to Monterrey. It was with the plan of staying here, establishing the Panetta Institute. Your beloved California had called you home, but President Obama and the nation had a different plan. I'm often asked by young people. How do I? Improve my career opportunities. when I go back to Washington, I have a very standard response which is. You know the most important thing. Is To do. The very best in the job that you're in. To Make Damn sure that you've dedicated yourself to getting that job accomplished. Because if you start focusing on the next step up the ladder. What happens. Is that almost automatically? You begin to cut corners. You get distracted. You get distracted. You're always trying to think about what could jeopardize your position your political position. And you just they're not committed to really getting the job done, and if you do the job and you do it right and I've I've always felt that you know I I always thought it was important to do well in the job you're in. Even if it's risky, even if it means, you could lose your job by virtue of doing the right thing but do that. If you do that. Other opportunities will come along. And in many ways that's been the story of my life. Is that you know I? I always decided that. Particularly in political chops that those ought not to be careers he ought to. They ought to be limited because if you'RE GONNA. Do it right, and you're going to make some tough decisions. You're going to get people angry at you. It's always better to leave those positions on a high where you've accomplished something and you've done well, but it's not like you're just trying to hang on for the sake of hanging on I. Think there's a shelf life to those jobs are hard to do their exhausting. If you do them right, and by the way, it's often good to have someone else. Come in and kick the tires exactly no one. is absolutely essential to any job. The fact is other people can come in and. It's good to have this breath of fresh air that comes in and looks at the job, but that's in part why President Obama wanted you to run the CIA. You didn't have an background and. I Guy Certainly I. Get this call from Rahm Emanuel. Who worked for me as a one of my aides when I was in the Clinton White House and he was now, the President Obama's chief. Been Designated Chief of staff and rum, called and said the president is thinking about the US director of the C. I.. A. I said Rom I said. Are you sure you got the right Guy because I'd been doing budget work and I'd been working on ocean issues. Were they looking for Norm Mineta? That's what I thought. I thought. Maybe you're looking for Norm Annetta. He said No. He says I think the president really wants to wants you to do it. And I remember Sylvia and I were visiting our son in Minneapolis. He's a cardiologists in Minneapolis we went to I. Think it was a playoff game for the Vikings? We at the game and I got a call. On My my cell phone that I think was from Sylvia. That said that the president elect Obama wanted to talk to me after the game went went back to Granola. And made the call to the president and the president. Said like you to become. Director of the Central Intelligence. Agency and I said I said Mr President I, said I'm honored that you would ask me, but as you know I spent my life doing a lot of budget work and doing other things. I mean I. I wasn't intelligence officer in the army. And I, obviously did intelligence when I was chief of staff. For, the president but I said I. I'm not quite sure whether it's a good fit. He said well. The reason I'm selecting Yuli on is because I think you can restore trust of CIA which had been badly damaged because of the politics of the time, and he said. I really think that you would be able to do that and besides that. I think it's a because we are in a war with terrorists I think. You would be strong leader in leading the effort to go after. Terrorists and particularly go after Ben Laden the CIA as you referenced, was struggling with a number of issues from policies on renditions, interrogation and miscalculations about weapons of mass destruction rock. Exactly what? What did you find at the when you got there? What was the morale I obviously headed up Headed up the White House Staff I kind of knew you know the challenges of taking on those kinds of responsibilities. You know the CIA. Had A mystique about it. Because you know here, it is located out in Virginia. You know off the Parkway beautiful campus too great campus. There's all kinds of talk about just exactly what the hell is the CIA. and. Where is this area Nevada? Where there are all these vehicles from outer space? Located it should be. We should point out that you're kidding right absolutely. Always asked the question I had a great. Person who became chief of Staff Jeremy Bash who we had as a guest on this podcast. Yeah! I'm I'm really glad that you did that because Germany has a great story as well, but Jeremy had been selected by the Obama Administration to head up the intelligence transitions. And he was helping me. At CIA and Jeremy Setup several meetings with the heads of the different areas at CIA, there's an analytical somebody in charge of analysis at the time, somebody in charge of operations, somebody in charge of technology somebody in charge of support systems I had the chance to sit down with all of them. And, these were not Republicans or Democrats. They were really. People who are dedicated to their job. I'm so glad you said that because that's precisely what I found that the FBI and the Justice Department that they don't take sides. They're Hartson's. They just try and do their job as best they can. You know and it was. It was so encouraging to have these people who knew their stuff at dedicated their lives to security of the country. You know just to to talk with them and walked through the various threats that the country was facing from terrorists and others around the world, and to have a sense of confidence that you know this is a team of people who really care about what's happening. I really felt. that. And Jeremy, and I made the decision early on that we were not gonNA walk into the CIA and kind of clean house and bring all kinds of new people that the most important thing we could do was to have him and I walk into the CIA headquarters. Just, the two of US and establish our relationship with the professionals who were there and learn, listen learn listen look at people how they doing on the job. Are they performing some people that you have to move on, but there are a lot of people who are doing their job right and that was encouraging I. think he wrote in your that at your first meeting you told those assembled in your conference room that you're going to work. Hard, have fun and become friends. That's right and that. One of the things I always believed. And it went back to my other jobs. I said I will be honest with you. But I expect you to be honest with me. And if I find that, you're not honest with me, then you're not gonna be around very long. You had an interesting issue early on. We had mentioned that one of the. Matters that landed on your desk was present Obama's resolve to release interrogation memos memoranda from part of justice that permitted the CIA to do. Enhanced interrogation, xxx overseas, and in many of the men and women in the CIA. You're now. Running were adamantly opposed to the president releasing that it's an interesting story about policy and process. Yeah, it is, and it was actually one of the first issues I had to deal with the challenge. Really becomes one of whether or not. You're going to be a leader. Of the people. That are responsible to you or whether you just going to kind of do what you think is necessary to kind of protect your own rear end. And as a leader of the C. I. A. These were people. Who as I said are really dedicated. To doing their job and nine eleven was a tragic event for this country to to be attacked in the way we were and to not know you know where the next attack might be. And I always thought you know if I was in that position at that time that you'd almost wanna do everything necessary to make sure that you're protecting the country that it never happened again. Yeah, and that it would never happen again I. think that those who worked at the CIA. who were dedicated to doing everything they could to trying to make sure they got good intelligence to try to protect the country from another devastating attack, and they were doing their job, and the reality was that the Justice Department had pretty much backed up Some of the steps that had been recommended and the and everybody there felt that you know what they were doing in accordance with the law. And I understand why the President President Obama change that approach I think he was right to do it. There were some of the tactics I think probably. Violated our basic values in terms of how we treat other individuals, but at the same time I also understood why people were doing that and to now suddenly put those people in jeopardy. So that what they did might be questioned and ultimately might cost them their job. Concern me. I made the decision. I was going to back them up in that effort. And you know went to the president and said you know Mr President. We need to move on. We've changed the way we do enhanced interrogation. There's no reason now why we should try to penalize. People who were doing what Justice Department said was right at the time. They were following orders and. And doing the right thing and really cared about the country I. Just think this really sends a bad signal to the president's credit. He allowed me to bring a group of other members of the C. I. A.. They're the senior members who had been involved present Obama heard them out, and he heard him out in the Oval Office and they spoke from their heart. And I really appreciate the president listening to them and I think it was for that reason that he was careful about You know the decisions. He ultimately made even though we didn't agree with a lot of those decisions to to go ahead and make some of this public in the end. I think the president. Really did make clear to the people who are working at the CIA that he really did care about them and the mission. They were performing I think. Though he ruled against the position, you were advocating and release those memoranda he did make it clear that any CIA personnel who relied on Department of Justice, legal advice in good faith would not be subject to prosecution -actly exactly and I think that was an important signal. To Send people when Jeremy Bash, your former chief of staff was on the show, he talked about a tragic event that took place during your tenure as C. I., A. Director in December of two thousand, nine and Co Steph, Ghanistan Yeah, yeah. It really became a very pivotal event. What had happened was one of our allied intelligence partners. Indicated that they had. A possible agent. Had located at individual. Who might be able to lead us? If not to Ben Laden. To the second in command our here I. Think was his name, right? It was one of these kind of unique opportunities. To kind of see if we could get a break, frankly on the location of bin, Laden so. We decided that we had to obviously talk to this agent to vet that individual to make sure that he was not a double agent. And so we set up a meeting. With him at place, call host Afghanistan. It's in the mountains near the Pakistani border. At first, the ancient didn't want to come out of Pakistan and it took a while when we finally convinced him. To come to this meeting at host. When we found, he was coming. the people there were obviously very excited couldn't wait to greet him. He was actually able to get through the checkpoints. Without being searched, which was a mistake, and as his vehicle pulled up. To where the intelligence officers were located, they kind of moved out and began to surround his car and the security. People were very nervous to their credit. And he got out on the other side of the vehicle. They had their weapons drawn, and they said take your hands out of your robe. He had his hands in his robe. And he then set off a suicide vest that was. It was devastating very powerful. And the explosion killed I think seven officers and wounded a number of others you know. He turned out obviously to be a double agent at the time, and it was a devastating blow. It was I was. Back in Monterey, actually at my home in Carmel, Valley was over the Christmas holidays when I got word that it had happened. And I spent the next few months going to funerals and you know really sharing with the families who you know we're. We're the loving partners of these officers and. I'll never forget everyone of those funerals. Families came up to me and said. You know we're glad you're here. But we want to make one thing clear. That You've got to continue. To do the work. That our loved one died for, and that was essentially to keep going after bin Laden. You described all the families as remarkably STOIC. They were very stoic and that there was a moment that I will never forget of going to a funeral. Of One of the members up in Massachusetts. We were driving. In the motorcade, going to the cemetery and people had lined up. Along the whole route. With American flags. I was thinking. You know here. Here's somebody who largely operates undercover whose work is not really no. To most of the people in this country, and cannot pay and cannot be. And yet here are the American families. WHO Know that this person had given his life. For the cause of this country. And you know it was. It was just such a reassuring moment to know that we are not alone. At the fact is this country? Is there you know supporting the CIA and supporting those who put their lives on the line for this country? And, as a result of those moments, I remember. Going back to the CIA and the people at the C. I, had the same feeling that because what happened at host. They were Gonna do everything they could to make sure that we would ultimately not only find whoever was involved and responsible for that suicide bombing. But that we would also do everything necessary to find Bin Laden, you listen to the names of the men and women who died that day in your book Harold Brown junior aged thirty seven Elizabeth Hanson, age thirty Darren Labonte H thirty five Jennifer Lynn Matthews H, forty five Dane Clark Parisi, age forty six. Scott Michael Rogerson Age thirty nine and Jeremy Wise aged thirty-five. Those individuals are now remembered by stars on the wall. At the CIA as you enter the lobby of the CIA. On the right hand side. is a wall of stars. That represent every one of those individuals who gave their life. In the line of duty at the CI, and even to this day there are some stars with no name, exactly a lot of them. we could never reveal their real name. They operated in a covert basis and it's A. It's a remarkable wall because not only does it reflect their sacrifice that they gave their life, but it's also the work they had to do. On behalf of this country in surrendering their own identity in order to make sure they could try to gather the kind of intelligence, we need surrender their own identity even in death exactly. President Obama's to take yet. Another job an extraordinary job as secretary of Defense of the United States. was that a surprise. Yeah. It was a little. It was a little bit of surprise. I. Mean I again. Going back to what I said about always knowing when to get the hell out of. His Washington. And always leaving on a high you know after we done the bin Laden raid and gotten bin Laden and it was such a successful mission kind of a great accomplishment for the intelligence community, and for the Special Forces community. In fact, one of the guests on the PODCAST, Admiral. Bill mcraven spoke about that raid. Yeah, no bill bill was the one who uh whose had a special forces and he was the one I had asked to actually prepare the operations to go after this compound where we thought bin Laden might be located you know to. Have that happen in happen successfully. was just a very proud moment and I really thought that it was a good time for me. A CIA director probably move on and go back to California. You keep trying to go back can't. Keep keep trying. And the President President You know asked me if I would, if I would become secretary of defense, and I said well I said this president, one way or another I want to get back to California. To get back to our institute and my home, and so I'm not sure that I'm GonNa. You know that I would serve beyond four years as secretary says. That's okay. how whatever time you can serve as secretary of defense. I'd like to have you do it. So again, president asked me to take on new responsibility, and you know I decided to do it and I've never regretted that decision either because As Secretary of Defense again you're working with people who are truly dedicated to protecting our country. It made me proud. Of. Those in uniform in particular, who are willing to fight and die. To protect our country, it's possible that our listeners heard a faint scratching at the door while we were in your office. I presume those dogs. They are we've got. Right outside the door right now, we've got our dog BUBBA. WHO's a golden retriever and we're babysitting for Jimmy stock my my youngest son's dog. His name is copper and he's elaborate doodle, but. Always been adopted family and I had a great dog before Bubba, bubba great dog, but I had a great dog named Bravo. Who was another golden retriever. I actually used to bring Bravo back with me to Washington to be with me. When I was director of the C. I., A. and also Secretary of Defense and You can't imagine bringing a golden into the CIA with all of these straight shooters. Who here in a conference and I? I Remember Bravo. Who would go up to some of these? These older. Officers and we'd be talking and he. He pushed their hand off the chair so that they would finally scratches. Is precisely what Bubba did to me today. That's right. And in finally, they you know. They finally petted him. and they. They all got used to him and. We went through all of these conferences on the Ben Laden raid in I've often said Bravo was there for all of those conferences in never leaked a word I you could trust Bravo and Bravo by the way is in my portrait at the CIA and he is also in my portrait. As Secretary of Defense, the only secretary, the only director to have a dog in the same picture it and it's because I really felt that he was very much a part of my team. in both jobs you know the size of the Department of Defense in two thousand and eleven, when you became secretary as you right the Department of Defense employed more than two million servicemen and women, another eight hundred thousand civilians, an additional one point, one million men and women in the national, guard and reserves yet another two million retirees that it owns more real estate than any organization on. Has Hundreds of bases around the globe, and at the Pentagon alone headquarters roughly twenty three thousand people who worked in that building on a daily basis. That's big. It's huge. It's huge. I've often said going from the CIA to To the Department of Defense was like going from the corner hardware store to one of these big You know hardware outlets. Box Big box stores. How do you get your arms? Around an enterprise that large I think in many ways you take the formula used at Oh, and be in the White House and it C., I a. and applied it to Department, of Defense, which is that? It is critical to establish a team sense of team. Among the leadership there because in the end they're going to be responsible. For getting the job done accomplishing the mission. so what I did! was as I did. At these other jobs established a staff meeting. At the highest levels every day, would that be among your joint chiefs? That's what I would do something by the way that had not only been done I did a staff meeting each morning with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, usually the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. My civilian heads of the various. Areas of responsibility. The policy heads the General Consul. The top leadership really at Dod and we would meet at nine o'clock. In the morning around a big. Conference table. And I would walk through you know. What are the the primary missions were looking at? At that moment. What are we working on in terms of legislation up on Capitol? Hill, what's happening with the budget What's happening in other areas I would ask each of them to a report from their different areas. And the purpose of that is to build this sense of team. so that everybody knows. What's happening particularly with the secretary and particularly with the White House? I would basically present what issues we're dealing with with regards to the White House as well so in being honest with the team and listening to them. I think he really do build a sense. Of Loyalty. So that you know, they know that you're telling them the truth. You're not pulling any punches. And you're asking for their help. your you know obviously. You have to be disciplined if there are things that have to be done you. Impress upon them the importance of getting the job done. And what what what what needs to be accomplished And I I really think. To develop a successful leadership model. It really requires three or four key things. One is establish a set of goals that you want to achieve. Never Walk into a job. Just to move stuff from the inbox to the outbox. What are the goals you want to achieve? And establish those schools. Secondly. Make. Sure that everybody shares those goals and understands why it's important to accomplish them develop a strategy for accomplishing those goals and what barriers we may run into. And then fourthly. Be Honest with yourself. As to what you can do and what you can't do, but also be honest with others. I think those are vital ingredients to being able to. Pull a huge department or agency together so that you are focused on what you have to accomplish, and as with the CIA, the Department of Defense is a here Article Organization of folks are used to getting and giving orders, and you're the boss, so they try very hard to comply imagine, but it's unwieldy. Yeah, no, it's. It is a big organization. There's a lot of bureaucracy involved There's a lot of people who operate in stovepipes. One kind or another, and each of your services have their own cultures and their organization, so we had what you know, what are now known as the joint commands which I think is real step in the right direction. Can you explain Yeah, Joint Command Combatant Commands? are really a use of bringing the various services together so that the air force the Marines the army. The navy are working together in. In a combatant command so that that command represents the best of all the services, but more importantly, they're all working together, so for instance stubborn command. It's a geographic responsibility exactly, but your services are there together working on common problems right? So have you have a southern command? We have a European Command. We have a combat combatant command. You have an African, so we have different areas of the world that have combatant commands. And they represent a combination of all of our services so that they can provide the air support. The navy support the ground support the troops on the ground special forces. All of them are operating, and interestingly enough you could have an admiral as head of one combatant command. You could have a marine general ahead of another combatant command. You can have an army general him another command it really does make the forces work together, and it's very important this stove. Stove Piping that I talked about can really be harmful. If services are not reaching out and really sharing information about the kinds of challenges that they have to face, I was really struck by something. You wrote in your book. worthy fights which I read and loved by the way, but you said that every week as the secretary of Defense, you spent quiet hours alone sort of reading and contemplating letters to send to families who lost loved ones. It was. Without question, the toughest job I had, which is You know I sit in the the office of the secretary. And pull out my stationary and I'd have a list of those who had been killed in combat. And I would write notes to their family. and to just take the time. To in your own handwriting address these families. and. HOW PROUD! They should be. With regards to their loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice? For for for the country and matter of fact, I'll never forget. One Moment Where I was writing one of those notes and it was to a Mrs Weiss. And I wish writing about the loss. Of Her son Sergeant First Benjamin Wise Right Benjamin Weiss. And I thought my God. I had written. A note to this mother. When I was director of the CIA, because her son was one of those who had been killed at host Jeremy Jeremy Wise Jeremy. That's right one of the seven names that I had read. And so now I was writing another note because she lost another son. Call been and I I often thought that here's a family. That had made the ultimate sacrifice. Two sons. who had given their life for the country? I mean I think we all. Remember you know the scene. Of. The brothers in in in the movie saving private. Ryan, where you know, the brothers had been killed and. They were trying to save one of the brothers. and here I was dealing with. The loss of two sons and I think what greater sacrifice can a family make? Then to. To give two of their sons. To this country in order to try to protect, I was wondering if you might read the handwritten note that you wrote. I am so very lost in my emotion. Of losing another son of yours to combat as the father of three sons. I cannot imagine the pain. You must be feeling. And yet I know. That like Jeremy. Ben was doing what he wanted. To fight for all of us. He is a true American hero and Patriot. God. Bless him and you. As beautiful words I also feel that I'm right now in the presence of a true American hero and Patriot it is. Such an honor to sit down with you Leon Panetta somebody who served as a congressman for sixteen years as the head of the Office of Management and Budget as President Clinton's chief of staff in the White House as the director of the CIA and as the Secretary of defense. It's. Quite a legacy, well I. I thank you and thank you for your service. I really believe deeply. In service to country because. I think our democracy. Is, strong, because there are people who are willing to give back to the country. And are willing to do things to. Try to make sure that we give our children a better life you know I talked about. My father is an immigrant, and I used to ask him why he came all of that distance to this country, and I never forgot his response which was. Because your mother and I believe we could give our children a better life in this country, and it did and I think they did and I've had. That's the American dream. It really is the American. Dream and I've had a chance. To live that kind of American dream and I'm really proud of having done that. We'll. Maybe you'll get called back to service one more time. I don't know California's a great place to live right now. It's a great place to be. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you very much. Thanks to Leon, Panetta, his wife Sylvia and the wonderful folks that the Panetta Institute on the campus of Cal State University. Monterey Bay for hosting our PODCAST. Thanks to to his dog. and his dog in law copper for being so patient and quiet for almost all of our interview. Leon is one of the most distinguished and accomplished public servants in American history with more important positions on his resume, and one could ever imagine. Congressman White House chief-of-staff CIA director and Secretary of Defense among others. He is also the author of the book worthy the fights. This is the oath with Chuck Rosenberg. Thank you so very much for listening. If you liked this episode, please let us know leaving us. A five star rating on whatever APP you used to listen. And ask your friends to subscribe. We are available on Apple podcasts, spotify tune-in and every major listening APP as well as MSNBC DOT com slash the. If, you're listening on a smartphone, tap or swipe over the cover art of podcast. You'll find our episode notes including some details, you might have missed. If you have any thoughtful criticism, feedback or questions about this episode or others. Please email us at podcast g mail DOT COM. That's all one word. The podcast. G MAIL DOT COM. And though I cannot personally respond to every email. Please know that I read each one of them and that I appreciate. The Oath is production of NBC News and MSNBC This podcast was produced by Co.. With Benny Cohen Nick, Batum and Robbie. They are a wonderful team. I am fortunate toward. Bolivia cruiser provided excellent production support as always. 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