Panetta: "The Problem With The White House Is Isolation"


BOB SCHIEFFER: Back now with Leon Panetta. Mister Panetta, in your book you talked about how the dysfunction that is now set in-- in Washington. You've all talked-- also talked about how control has been so centralized in the White House that cabinet officers, including the Secretary of Defense, sometimes were-- were told not to deal with Congress, for example, that all of those things would be handled in the White House. What's gone wrong here in this administration? I mean, for one thing, they can't seem to catch a break here, and-- and is it their fault? Is it just what's happened? What's-- what's the problem?

LEON PANETTA: Bob, there are--you know, having been in this town close to fifty years, you know, I've seen Washington at its best and Washington at its worst. And right now I think it's Washington at its worst because of the-- the gridlock and the stalemate that's involved in this town. A lot of things have contributed to it. But I worry about that and that's-- that's really one of the reasons. In the book I try to identify my concerns because we're looking, regardless of what happens at this election, probably two and a half more years of stalemate. If that happens at a time when we're facing the kind of crises we're facing abroad, at-- at-- at a time when we're facing major issues in this country, there is a certain sense that both parties have kind of given up on going after those issues and dealing with them. And this country cannot tolerate another two and a half years of stalemate. The President can't tolerate it. If he wants to be able to get the things done that he wants done, and I respect him for-- for what he wants to get done, he has got to get into the ring. Everybody's got to get in and fight to make sure that we do the right thing for the country.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what do you think there are some suggestions that he might be considering some major staff changes after the election? Do you think that'd be a good idea to just kind of clean house and start over? Other Presidents have done this in the second term.

LEON PANETTA: I always think it's a-- a good idea to bring new life into the White House. The problem with the White House is, as you mentioned, is-- is isolation. You isolate the President from a broad range of views. And-- and I understand this has developed over the years, more concentration of power in the staff of the White House. And, as a result, the President doesn't get exposed to a broad range of views that he needs in order to make the decisions. So bringing new life in, bringing new views in would be very helpful to giving the President that greater exposure to a lot of different options that he's going to have to consider if he's going to get things done.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You say in the book that sometimes he doesn't seem to show the passion that one needs to show that he approaches things as-- as a law professor.

LEON PANETTA: You know-- you know, look, I don't-- I don't mind Presidents who have the quality of- of a law professor in looking at the issues and determining just exactly, you know, what needs to be done. But Presidents need to also have the heart of a warrior. That's the way you get things done, is you-- you engage in the fight. And in this town, as difficult it is-- as it is, and it is difficult. I mean you've got Tea Party members in Congress who basically want to shut the government down and tear it down. He still has to have the ability to engage and to try to work with people up there who want to get things done in order to make sure that we just don't stalemate as a country. This country is strong. It's powerful. I think we could have a great future. But if all we do is operate by crisis after crisis after crisis, then we are going to weaken this countr

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