Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mark, and an article on Leon Panetta

Because I posted photos of my daughter yesterday I think it only fair to give my son equal time. Mark was three months old when the photo of him as a baby was taken and the other photo was taken last month when he was home helping me at Christmas. I'm sure he won't be pleased to see the change that 57 years has made, but he is still my pride and joy.

After the sour grapes that Diane Feinstein had to say about the appointment of Leon Panetta to head the C.I.A I think another viewpoint is important. Following is an editorial by Mark Shields that is more accurate and fair than Diane's words coming from her 'poor little hurt ego'.

Leon Panetta, Public Servant

I first met Leon Panetta in 1966. We were both working as legislative assistants in the U.S. Senate — Leon for progressive Republican Sen. Tom Kuchel of California and I for maverick Democratic Sen. Bill Proxmire of Wisconsin.

Washington really was a more civil place in 1966. Republicans and Democrats could and did like each other. I liked Leon — the son of Italian immigrant parents, an alumnus of Santa Clara University and its law school, and an Army veteran — then, and I have liked him ever since. In well over four decades of living and working in the nation's capital, I have never known a better public servant than Leon Panetta.

You don't have to take just my word for it. No one in American political history has polled for the campaigns of more U.S. senators and governors than Democrat Peter D. Hart and the public opinion firm that bears his name. Of his fellow Californian, Hart says, "Leon has always been a missionary, never a mercenary." That might explain why, according to individuals who prefer to remain unnamed but in a position to know, Leon Panetta, happy working with his wife and partner of 46 years, Sylvia, and barely five months short of his 71st birthday, once again answered the call and chose public service over private profit.

That call — to lead the wounded, but vitally important Central Intelligence Agency — came from President-elect Barack Obama, who to his credit has mastered an elusive truth: When the culture of any institution (in this case, the CIA) has to be changed, people who are often most resistant to that change are the very people who are the products of that culture. It does sometimes take an outsider — obviously an outsider with ability, leadership, experience and judgment like Panetta has — to make real change in an organization.

Not surprised by Panetta's willingness to accept the tough challenge of rehabilitating the CIA was his former congressional colleague, retired 10-term House Republican from Minnesota Bill Frenzel.

When Frenzel, like Panetta an authentic hawk on federal deficits, was ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, Democrat Panetta was the committee chairman. He quoted his fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey to me to explain Panetta's affirmative response to Obama's insistent overture: "When the president asks you to do something, it's not a request. It is a draft call." To Frenzel, confident that his former colleague is up to the CIA challenge, Panetta has always been "a splendid public servant."

In my Washington years, no member of Congress has inspired more loyalty and devotion from his staff members than Dick Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who served from 1976 to 2004 and was an elected leader of his party in the House for 15 years. Dick Gephardt, not given to the use of superlatives, was uncharacteristically effusive in speaking of Panetta: "There is nobody I have ever known for whom I have more respect. Leon is smart and experienced. He understands government. But, most importantly, he has the highest character and integrity of anyone you will ever meet."

But what about the critics' charge that, except for his time in the Army and during his stint as White House chief of staff, Panetta has not had real experience with the gathering of intelligence? To Gephardt, Panetta "will come to the CIA (leadership) with fresh eyes" and "with the exceptional leadership" needed "to ensure civilian control — with necessary transparency — to protect the nation and still enable Congress to meet its obligations of oversight. ... Leon Panetta is the perfect choice."

I agree. Panetta has always had the rare and valuable ability to laugh at himself. He is the sworn enemy of pomp and pretense. He always takes his public assignments seriously, but never himself. He personifies integrity. It says something good about Barack Obama that he, in his brief exposure, recognized the quality of Leon Panetta. It says something good and reassuring about America that we still do produce Americans like Leon Panetta.

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20th Century Woman said...

Addorable baby, cute fella. I bet you get hugs. I enjoyed the article and am encouraged by it.

Sylvia K said...

Absolutely, adorable baby and a cute fella! and I can feel the hugs. Always love what you have to say and thanks for sharing the photos! So glad to see you recovering so well and with such wonderful support! Thanks as always for visiting my blog and for your comments!

Rinkly Rimes said...

I can't comment on your politics, but I can say that I think your son looks just as cuddle now as he did then.

Darlene said...

20th Century Woman, I'm glad you appreciated the article. Mark Shields is one of my favorites - as is Mark Costner, the adorable baby ;).

Sylvia, Thank you so much for all the kind comments. Your blog is one of the best and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Rinkly Rimes, Mark is the teddy bear cuddly type, isn't he? I'll tell him you said so. :)

Nancy said...


How fortunate you are to have two such wonderful children.

Mark looks like someone I would enjoy knowing. You told us how much he helped you recently after your fall, and I really admire him for that.

And Gail jumped right in on your blog to let us all know what had happened to you. It was very considerate of her to do that because how else would we have ever known what had happened to you. Good for her!

About Leon Panetta. At first, I thought that President Elect Obama should have selected a new Director for the CIA from within the Agency BUT after reading the Mark Shields article that you reprinted for us, I now agree that Panetta is the perfect choice.

Thanks for the information......

Darlene said...

Nancy, glad I could help on changing your mind on Panetta. Yes, my children have been my blessing. My step-daughter will be visiting me soon so I will have another blessing.

Tabor said...

Your son looks like a charming person and certainly is a sweetheart to take care of you. I was glad to see this on Panetta as I also felt he might not be the best for the appointment. For some reason I cannot get your blog to link to my blog list and come to the top when you I always have to remember to work my way down to read your blog.

Darlene said...

Tabor, just as long as you get here I don't think moving me to the top is important. ;) does so many crazy things (like changing text size) that it can drive you nuts.

One Woman's Journey said...

Darlene thank you for sharing your son. What a blessing for you that he spent time with you when you needed him.