by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 06, 2014
The White House on Monday rejected claims by ex-Pentagon chief Leon Panetta that President Barack Obama is too reticent to take on opponents and lacks the passion to lead.
Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest also pointedly questioned the etiquette of former senior US officials dishing the details of their relationship with the president while he is still in office.
Earnest said Obama had displayed his leadership skills as recently as over the last few weeks in taking on the Islamic State and the Ebola crisis.
The spokesman said this was very much in line with Obama's statesmanship when Panetta led the CIA between 2009 and 2011 and the Defense Department between 2011 and 2014.
"The leadership that the president demonstrated over the last several weeks is entirely consistent with the leadership that the president has shown over the last six years," Earnest said.
Earnest also hinted at some White House frustration at criticism of the president's decisions contained in Panetta's book, which follows tomes by ex-secretary of defense Robert Gates and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, which also spilled administration secrets.
"Anybody in any administration who has served in prominent positions like that has to make a decision about how and when and whether to talk about their experience serving the president of the United States," he said.
USA Today reported that in his book's final chapter, Panetta writes that the president's "most conspicuous weakness" is "a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause."
Obama too often "relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader," Panetta wrote and "avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities."
The paper also wrote how Panetta, a Washington veteran, praised Obama's intelligence and convictions. But the critique of Obama will draw the most attention -- especially as it plays into existing criticisms of the president's behavior and political liabilities.
Panetta's "Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace," is set for release Tuesday by Penguin Press.
White House defends Biden after Middle East gaffes
Biden called leaders in the two states, key members of the US coalition taking on the Islamic State group, after he was quoted as saying that they had financed and armed the Sunni jihadists.
Biden's comments caused consternation in the Middle East and questions in Washington as to whether they would dampen the resolve of US allies who have signed up to fight IS.
Biden's office released a statement following his call to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Saturday and he also apologized in person to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy head of the armed forces.
"What the vice president conveyed was an apology for, as it relates to President Erdogan, mischaracterizing the president's views in a private conversation," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Regarding the Emiratis, Earnest said Biden "was not attempting to imply that the UAE has facilitated or supported ISIL, Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria.
Earnest said that despite his comments, the latest in a string of verbal gaffes, at Harvard University on Thursday, the vice president remained a core member of President Barack Obama's national security team.
"I think the vice president is somebody who has enough character to admit when he's made a mistake," Earnest said.
Erdogan said that if Biden had used such language "that would make him a man of the past for me."
The UAE had described Biden's remarks as "amazing" and said they ignored the role of the Emirates in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
In his comments, Biden referred to Turkey, Erdogan, Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis as friends.
But he said they been so determined to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they had "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tonnes of weapons into anyone who would fight against" him.
"Except the people being supplied were Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world," Biden said.
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