Thursday on CNN’s “The Lead,” former White House chief of staff and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused President Donald Trump of leading with chaos and bullying, and added that it was “not working.”
Partial transcript as follows:
TAPPER: So this week, the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper questioned the president’s fitness for the job. Senator Bob Corker, Republican, said that the president hasn’t demonstrated the stability or competence to do the job. Now this afternoon on the Corker comments, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Corker’s comments were outrageous and wouldn’t dignify it from the podium. Do you think questioning the president’s competence and stability is outrageous?
PANETTA: Well, obviously the press secretary for the president has to come back with that kind of response. I think that, that’s pretty much what press secretaries have to do when there’s criticism coming regarding the competence and stability in the Oval Office. Having said that, you know, the reality is, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jim Clapper and for Bob Corker. I think they’re both patriots. They both care about this country. They’ve raised concerns that a lot of people have about, you know, whether or not this president really understands what what being president is all about and whether or not he can govern this country with a degree of good judgment and competence. Those are, those are real issues that I think have to be raised and have to be debated.
TAPPER: Do you share those concerns?
PANETTA: Oh, there’s no question that there’s a lot of concern about whether or not this president really understands what governing is all about. I mean, I wish he would just take the time to look at past presidents and what it takes to really govern this country. You know, past presidents who’ve been successful have focussed on the priorities that they want to accomplish for this country. They’ve been willing to reach out to this country and unify it behind those priorities. They’ve been working, they will work with the leadership and the Congress to work with them to get those priorities adopted. They’ll present legislation to the Congress, and they’ll work to try to get members to vote for that legislation. That’s what governing is all about. That’s what FDR did; that’s what LBJ did; it’s what Ronald Reagan did. And this president, on the other hand, kind of rejects that and takes the approach of governing by chaos, governing by pitting one group after another, by blaming one side or the other, by using kind of outrageous comments like shutting down the federal government over a wall. I mean, those are the tactics that create chaos. And very frankly, it doesn’t work very well when it comes to governing our country.
TAPPER: There’s a poll out yesterday from Quinnipiac that shows about seven in ten Americans do not think the president is level-headed—just to define level-headed, rational or showing sound judgment. You are a former secretary of defense, former CIA director. You know how important the job of president is and how much power is in the hand of commander in chief. Do you think President Trump is up to the task? Do you think he is level-headed?
PANETTA: Well, you know, there are a lot of people who have worked with Donald Trump in the past who recognize the kind of tactics that he uses, but at the same time think that deep down there is some kind of rational for what he’s trying to do. You know — I think he takes the basic approach he did when he was a developer in New York, which is basically to try to bully people to criticize them and to somehow, by doing that, force them to do what he wants to do. That’s the tactic he used then, it’s the tactic he used when he ran for election, and now he’s trying to use that same tactic as president. He thinks that if he can criticize people, if he can blame them, if he can undermine them, that somehow as a result of that, they will respond to whatever he wants them to do. It’s not working. And that raises a lot of concern about whether this president, as president, is going to get anything done, you know, that this country needs in order to be able to be a strong America.
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