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EP 337: Leon Panetta on Governing by Leadership Instead of by Crisis

Leon Panetta talks about hard decisions, worthy fights, and "governing by leadership instead of by crisis." He recalls growing up in Monterey, California as the first generation of Italian immigrants and warns the Trump Administration’s immigration policies could mean fewer immigrant success stories like his own. He reveals how he started his political career as a Republican until President Richard Nixon fired him for daring to enforce civil rights laws. He shares some early lessons in political civility and bipartisanship from his mentor Senator Thomas Kuchel and how those lessons served him well as a Congressman and President Bill Clinton’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He discusses stepping in as Clinton’s Chief of Staff during a particularly chaotic time in his presidency, how his early military training helped him in that role, and some words of advice he shared with President Trump’s outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly. Panetta admits to his surprise when President Obama tapped him for Director of the CIA, opens up about what went through his mind as he watched the Bin Laden raid go down, and says that Obama’s failure to enforce his own red line in Syria may have embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria, Crimea, and beyond.

Learn more about the Panetta Institute for Public Policy at Thank you to the Ronald Reagan National Defense Forum and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum for hosting this interview. Today's podcast was sponsored by the new Wondery podcast Safe for Work and Ben Sasse's audiobook Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.

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