Panetta criticism 'dishonorable' and 'sad,' says ex-Obama official

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s criticism of President Obama is “dishonorable” and “sad,” former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton charged Tuesday.

“He is a guy who has had a long and storied career in Washington and has really served his country well,” Burton said during an interview with CNN. “And it is kind of sad that, in its twilight, he's done such a dishonorable thing by — at a time — by going after the president that he served at a time of a lot of different instabilities around the world.”

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Panetta has generated a slew of headlines during his recent book tour with his stinging critique of Obama, saying the president has been too willing to “step back and give up” when facing leadership challenges.

He’s also said Obama damaged American credibility by not following through on his pledge to attack Syria if it used chemical weapons. Panetta claimed the president’s policies had helped allow the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

But Burton suggested it was Panetta’s book that was hurting U.S. interests.

“I think if you ask the question, ‘Do you think that Leon Panetta's book helps or harms our interest, or help or harm the credibility of this administration, as the president is conducting the job of foreign policy and keeping our nation safe?' It's hard to say yes,” the former White House spokesman said.

Burton also said Obama had “shown his leadership time and again.”

“He has moved this country in the right direction. And to attack his leadership I think is small and petty,” Burton said.

In an interview with CBS News on Wednesday, Panetta said he wasn’t being disloyal in speaking out against the president while he was still in office.

“You know what? It’s exactly because I am very loyal to this president, and because I want him to succeed that I think it’s important to raise these issues now,” Panetta said. “So that hopefully in 2½ years, you know, we can make sure that he really does have the kind of legacy that I think he deserves as president.”