The interview actually covered three segments of the show tonight, which is highly unusual. But not surprising, because the substance of the interview is breathtaking, terrifying, illuminating and self-serving all at the same time.
Panetta is either doing a great acting job or he’s legitimately torn between trying not to throw the president under the bus for his job performance on foreign policy during the time he served Obama as CIA director and Defense Secretary and telling the American people the truth. He tries to soft-soap answers to O’Reilly’s troubling questions about the myriad failures, but when pinned down he doesn’t offer much of a defense for Obama.
It’s a calamitous interview for the president. And even though it’s quite clear Panetta is helping to distance Hillary Clinton and the Clinton camp from Obama, a process which will only accelerate after the midterms (particularly in the event the Republicans win the Senate). Obama is a disaster for the Democrats going forward and they know it, and whoever the Republican nominee is in 2016 will merely need to spend the whole campaign tying a rope around Hillary and Obama and pulling it tight. So for Panetta to make the case that he and Clinton gave Obama good advice and he didn’t take it isn’t just the standard-issue kiss-and-tell of a former presidential aide, it’s also a strategic attempt at a political salvage operation.
But whether this is the Clintonites turning on Obama, Panetta flogging his book or a red flag being waved at the American people – none of which is by any means mutually exclusive – Panetta tells O’Reilly this administration is in free fall.
And a bit extra. Here’s Charles Krauthammer reacting to the interview and calling it “devastating” for the president…