Former Obama Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has just made an official endorsement for the 2016 race for president, and few are surprised by his choice.
Panetta appeared on MSNBC on Thursday and was asked by host Andrea Mitchell, arguably herself a longtime Democrat advocate, who he supports to become commander in chief in a world that is “in crisis everywhere we look.”
He immediately endorsed Hillary Clinton, saying she was “best qualified” to be president.
“My view,” Panetta said earnestly, “is that Hillary Clinton probably has the best credentials in terms of those two areas that I discussed.”
The former defense secretary went on to claim that Hillary “understands” all the troubles the world faces and would be the best choice to “lead” the country, especially in matters of foreign policy.
But the MSNBC host had a very tough question for Panetta, one that made his claims of Hillary’s qualifications seem risible.
“And you support her,” Michell said pointedly, “but all of these problems we’ve just talked about got worse on her watch as well as on your watch. The growth of ISIS, the Syrian civil war, the withdraw from Iraq… so why is she qualified to become commander in chief?”
In the end, Panetta didn’t seem to have an answer for that charge and simply restated his claim that Hillary was best qualified.
Here is the transcript of that conversation:
Andrea Mitchell: We have described, you have described, a world in crisis everywhere we look. Who is best qualified to be commander in chief as we elect a new president?
Leon Panetta: Well, you know, I’ve said the next president of the United States has two principal responsibilities. One is to break the gridlock in this town because I think one of the greatest threats to national security is the dysfunction in Washington. So, the ability to govern, the ability to bring both parties together in order to govern, that is a huge responsibility for the next president.
Secondly, they have to be a world leader–he or she has to be a world leader–uh, that can deal with all these threats that we just discussed. So, it is extremely important that whoever is elected president of the Untied States have the ability to govern, but also have the ability to provide world leadership.
My view is that Hillary Clinton probably has the best credentials in terms of those two areas that I discussed. But clearly, other candidates on the Republican side have to show that they are willing to address those two issues as well.
Mitchell: And you were a Republican when you started out in public life, uh, you even served in the Nixon administration; so, although you have been part of Clinton world and part of the Democratic Party for many, many years. Are you officially endorsing her?
Panetta: I’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton, and I’ve also helped provide advice on defense and foreign policy issues. I know her, I work with her, uh, I think, uh, that what this country needs at a very dangerous time is responsible leadership in the real world, not a fantasy world, but in the real world. And she is somebody who has that experience, uh, and for that reason that’s why I support her.
Mitchell: And you support her, but all of these problems we’ve just talked about got worse on her watch as well as on your watch. The growth of ISIS, the Syrian civil war, the withdraw from Iraq… so why is she qualified to become commander in chief?
Panetta: I think she’s qualified to be commander in chief because she understands the challenges that are there, she understands the world we live in, she understands the complications of it. Of course, you know, uh, look, going back to Republican administrations as well as Democratic administrations, there is a responsibility for both the good things that happen as well as the bad things that happen. But in the end the real question is, does someone have the ability to be able to deal with other world leaders, to be able to represent our national security interests in dealing with those countries and has the credibility to be able to engage in that kind of world. And that is critical at a time when we’re facing the kind of threats we are facing now.