Leon Panetta Won Republicans Over With Sass, Drones

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Photo: Getty Images

After running the CIA for President Obama, Leon Panetta is now the Defense secretary, despite decades in politics that included neither intelligence training nor experience fighting wars. But the former liberal dove who wanted the Bush administration investigated for torture is not only the first Democrat to serve as Defense secretary since 1997 — he was confirmed 100 to 0. How did he do it? It helps that he uses bad words and laughs a lot, the New York Times reports today. A longtime aide boiled down the strategy into the Five Rules of Panetta:

¶"You can't slam dunk anyone." Work with opponents.
¶"Any [expletive] can burn down a barn; it takes a leader to build one."
¶"He who controls the paper controls the outcome."
¶"Never let them see you sweat."
¶"In a negotiation, take what you can get. And then come back for more."

It helps that Panetta is now "fairly hawkish and aggressive on national security issues," as one Republican put it. He's authorized more drone strikes in Pakistan than George W. Bush did, and some 200 overall in 28 months as CIA chief. And, of course, he oversaw the biggest get of the year, as inspired by the promise of alcohol:

His tenure was capped by the Bin Laden raid. A friend, Ted Balestreri, co-owner of Monterey’s Sardine Factory restaurant, had dared him to find Bin Laden, vowing to open an 1870 bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild, priced at $10,000, if he did. Four months later, Mr. Panetta called his wife, Sylvia, in California. "Call Ted," he said, "and tell him he owes me that bottle of wine."

Maybe Muammar Qaddafi is worth a nice steak and we can just call it a meal.

Panetta’s Pentagon, Without the Blank Check [NYT]