Leon Panetta

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Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta

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Leon Edward Panetta is a former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Obama appointment

In January 2009 Leon Panetta was nominated[1]by the Obama administration for the position of Director in the CIA and confirmed in February 2009.

First stint in Washington

Thomas Kuchel was a liberal Republican, a former Assemblyman and State Senator and Leon Panetta worked for him when before he became a Democrat. Max Rafferty defeated Kuchel in the primary of 1968 and Rafferty was defeated by Alan Cranston in November of that year.

The primary loss left Kuchel aide Leon Panetta out of a job. Jack Veneman hired him to run HEW’s Office of Civil Rights. The two had worked together, along with Bill Bagley on Nelson Rockefeller’s 1964 presidential campaign.

Panetta went to work, promptly and appropriately enforcing the then four year old Civil Rights Act. That didn’t fit well with Nixon’s political agenda.

In 1968, Strom Thurmond swung Southern delegates behind Nixon rather than Reagan by telling them Nixon had pledged to go easy on enforcing desegregation laws.

On a Monday the following May, Attorney General John Mitchell, the architect of Nixon’s “southern strategy,” called the president and told him to “fire that prick in the basement of HEW.”

Nixon called Cabinet Secretary Bob Finch. Panetta handwrote his resignation, inserting the word ”regrettably” to suggest he was pressured to quit.

Finch promised to fight for Panetta to keep his job.

In his book about the experience, Bring Us Together, Panetta talks about how Veneman called him and said, “Leon, I just told the secretary I’ll resign if the White House accepts your resignation.”

Panetta said he was surprised. “Here was a guy who was sympathetic to the most progressive causes but who always operated within the system.”

Panetta decided he should tell Lew Butler, about Veneman’s pledge.

“There’s probably a hundred people who could be director of the Office of Civil Rights. That’s not the point,” Panetta quotes Butler as saying. “For better or for worse, you’ve become a symbol not only on civil rights but for the young guys in the department. I’m with Jack, all the way.”

Despite Veneman and now Butler backing him, Panetta believed the White House capable of firing all of them. The White House referred to the younger more activist elements at HEW as “Finch’s crowd.”

Mike Kahl, an HEW staffer and close friend of Veneman, had “Finch’s Crowd” lapel pins made as a badge of honor. After the first news story about the badges’ existence ran, the badges were not more.

Veneman boycotted HEW until Finch convinced Nixon to rescind the order to fire Panetta. He slept in Bagley’s hotel room and used it as his office until Finch arrived to tell Veneman and Bagley that Nixon had “freed Panetta from Mitchell’s grasp.”

According to Panetta, a story ran in the Washington Post, saying he was resigning. He wasn’t.

Panetta told Finch about it and they agreed to deal with it the same way as other stories falsely reporting his resignation had been handled. But this time a reporter asked Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s press secretary, if Panetta was resigning. “Yes,” Ziegler said.

“I was basically fired by the White House,” Panetta said. “I didn’t resign.”[2]

Successor

Stan Pottinger, from the HEW regional office here in Southern California, was called to Washington D.C. to take Panetta's job.

Panetta was willing to introduce Pottinger to his staff, telling them to be as loyal to Stan as they had been to him.

Pottinger went on to eventually head the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department when Eliot Richardson became Attorney General.

He also divorced his wife and became the partner, for ten years of Gloria Steinem, prominent member of Democratic Socialists of America.[3]

Panetta the Democrat

Panetta, became a Democrat, successfully running for Congress in 1976.[4]

At least two socialists worked on this campaign, John Laird and Don Lane.

1979 WILPF conference

A proud achievement for Santa Cruz activiist Lucy Haessler was organizing the 1979 national WILPF Biennial Conference at UCSC. Lucy Haessler invited Linus Pauling to be the main speaker. Ava Pauling also attended. Rep. Leon Panetta was keynote speaker and Randall Forsberg, founder of the nuclear Freeze movement, was also part of the program. This successful event elevated Santa Cruz WILPF permanently into the orbit of outstanding WILPF conferences.[5][6]

Tribute to Lucy Haessler

In spite of Lucy Haessler’s involvement with the Soviet front Women’s International Democratic Federation, Congressman Leon Panetta placed a tribute in the Congressional Record, April 11, 1984, to mark Haessler’s 80th birthday.

Panetta noted that Lucy Haessler attended several conferences of the East German based organization, in France, the Soviet Union, Poland and East Germany.

Congressman Panetta also commended Haessler for her activism in opposition to the Vietnam War and the deployment of US Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe. Haessler's activism in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Women Strike for Peace, were also noted. Both organizations were also affiliated to another Soviet front, the World Peace Council and were heavily infiltrated by the Communist Party USA and its allies.

Congressman Panetta rounded off the tribute by hoping that Mrs Haessler would “continue her valiant efforts, and with her help, we may yet realize her 80 year old dream: Peace on Earth.”

Endorsed New American Movement health project

Throughout 1979 and 1980, the the Santa Cruz New American Movement dominated Westside Neighbors group continued to focus political energy on creating a health care center, in Santa Cruz's Western suburbs..In February 1979, a delegation met with U.S. Congress member Leon Panetta, and State Senator Henry Mello. The meetings resulted in their endorsements of the health center proposal and general, but vague, promises to “help in any way possible” from both politicians. They reconfirmed their support in September 1981.[7]

The Chile letter

On August 1 1979 Thirty-five U.S. Congressmen signed a letter[8]to President Jimmy Carter demanding that private bank loans to Chile be barred unless the Chilean government chose to extradite three military officials, including the former director of the Chilean intelligence service. The three had been indicted for complicity in the assassination of marxist Unidad Popular government member and KGB agent Orlando Letelier and the killing of Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) staffer Ronni Moffitt in 1976.

In May 1978 the Chief Justice of the Chilean Supreme Court rejected the U.S. request for extradition.

Chief sponsor of the letter was Rep. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who was joined by Congressmen John Burton (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Robert Kastenmeier (D-WI), Ron Dellums (D-CA), Berkley Bedell (D-IA), Richard Ottinger (D-NY), Fred Richmond (D-NY), Robert Drinan (D-MA), Leon Panetta (D-CA), Don Edwards (D-CA); Norman Mineta (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA}, Anthony Beileson (D-CA) George Brown (D-CA), Toby Moffett (D-CT), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Eugene Atkinson (D-PA), Michael Barnes (D-MD), David Bonior (D-MI), Adam Benjamin (D-IN), William Brodhead (D-MI), Robert Carr (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Tom Downey (D-NY), Harold Hollenbeck (R-NJ), Pete Kostmayer (D-PA), Stewart McKinney (R-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Andrew Maguire (D-NJ) Richard Nolan (DFL-MN), Gerry Studds (D-MA), Bruce Vento (DFL-MN) and Howard Wolpe (D-MI).

The Harkin letter characterized the Chilean government as "an enemy of the American people" and urged the President to "take strong action against this terrorist government." The letter was released (9 A.M. on August 1 1979) at the same time a press statement from the Washington, DC, Chile Legislative Center of the National Coordinating Center in Solidarity with Chile, staffed by veterans of the Venceremos Brigade and the Communist Party USA, supported the Congressional letter and urged pressure so that the State Department does not accept a military trial of the three Chileans in Chile as a substitute for extradition and trial in the US

Panetta and the Institute for Policy Studies

In the early 1980s Panetta was openly close to the radical Washington "think tank" Institute for Policy Studies, even serving[9]on the organization's 20th Anniversary Committee in 1983.

Among others serving on the IPS 20th Anniversary Comittee chaired by Paul Warnke were Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Gary Hart (D-CO) with an endorsement provided by Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR).

Former Senators on the committee included James Abourezk, a former IPS Trustee, Birch Bayh, Frank Church, William Fullbright, Eugene McCarthy and Gaylord Nelson.

The Congressional IPS comittee members included Panetta, Les Aspin (D-WN), George Brown, Jr. (D-CA), Philip Burton (D-CA), George Crockett (D-MI), Ron Dellums (D-CA), former Texas Congressman Robert Eckhardt, Don Edwards (D-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Robert Kastenmeier (D-WI), Chairman of the Subcomittee on Courts, Civil Liberties and the Administration of Justice, George Miller (D-CA), Richard Ottinger (D-NY), Henry Reuss (D-WI), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, Patricia Schroeder (D-CO}, John Seiberling (D-OH) and Ted Weiss (D-NY).

Working with socialist John Laird

Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee member John Laird has worked in every aspect of Democratic Party politics, as a six-time delegate to Democratic national conventions, a twenty-five year member of the state Democratic Central Committee, an Electoral College member from California in 1992, 1996 and 2000, Chair of both County-wide Democratic campaigns and the County Democratic Committee (1994-98), President of the Peoples Democratic Club, and an active campaign committee member in the first congressional campaign of Leon Panetta in 1976.[10].

Laird says that of the political efforts "of which he is most proud was as an early volunteer in Leon Panetta's first congressional campaign". [11]

In the 1980s John Laird and Santa Cruz activist Annie Notthoff, worked with Congressman Leon Panetta and US Senator Pete Wilson to "protect California’s coastal environment and economy from offshore oil drilling proposals". [12]

Supporting "Veteran's fast for life"

Leon Panetta closes the press conference
Leon Panetta closes the press conference

On September 1st, 1986, four veterans began a water-only "fast for life" on the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C. They wanted to to draw attention to, and to protest, President Reagan's "illegal and extraordinarily vicious wars against the poor of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala."

The veterans were;

The veterans believed that the President's explicit policy of directing the contra terrorists in Nicaragua to commit wanton murder and destruction, enabled by appropriations passed by a majority of members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, amounted to grotesque, unconscionable violent behavior in violation of both U.S. Constitutional and international law, and the egregious breach of the human rights of virtually all Nicaraguan citizens. The veterans believed that the President was clearly vulnerable to Constitutional impeachment, and that all members of the Senate and House of Representatives should have been subjected to criminal prosecution under international law as well, whether they were re-elected or not.

On October 7 several U.S Congressmen and Senators spoke at a press conference in support of the faster's cause. They included Senator Charles Mathias (R-MD), Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Don Edwards (D-CA), Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Leon Panetta (D-CA), Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senator John Kerry (D-MA), David Bonior (D-MI), Lane Evans (D-Illinois), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).[13]

Relationship with Hugh DeLacy

In 1983 Leon Panetta placed a tribute to life long communists Hugh DeLacy and his wife Dorothy DeLacy in the Congressional Record celebrating them as "lifelong activists for social justice". It read in part "the causes to which they have dedicated their lives - peace, jobs, an end to race and sex discrimination, a halt to the costly and dangerous arms race, are causes for which we are still working today..."[14]

Remembering Hugh DeLacy

On September 6 1986 a memorial for Hugh DeLacy was held at the Louden Nelson Center, Santa Cruz, California.

Mardi Wormhoudt was the presenter, speakers included Margaret DeLacy, Jack Berman, Hon. Leon Panetta, John McTernan, Gary Patton, songs by Mike Rotkin, readings by Leon Papernow and Linda Bergholdt, a letter from Dorothy...by Greta Davis and songs by Steve Turner and Terry Turner[15].

References

  1. Nominations and appointments
  2. http://californiascapitol.com/blog/?p=59
  3. http://californiascapitol.com/blog/?p=59
  4. http://californiascapitol.com/blog/?p=59
  5. FOUNDING MEMBER of WILPF: LUCY'S ENDURING LEGACY, By Ruth Hunter
  6. [ http://wilpf.got.net/PDFs/Dove_June_10.pdf Undaunted Dove, Dove History In Junes excerpted by Sandy Silver, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Santa Cruz Branch, June 2010]
  7. New American Movement and Grassroots Organizing in Santa Cruz, California1 Mike Rotkin
  8. Information Digest August 10 1979 p 244
  9. Information Digest April l5, 1983
  10. http://www.environmentalcaucus.org/profiles.html
  11. Full Biography for John Laird Candidate for Member; California State Assembly; District 27, November 5, 2002 Election
  12. [Switchboard: Natural Resource Defense Council Blog, John Laird named to key environmental post in Brown administration, Annie Nothoff, January 6, 2011]
  13. [1] Ivan's Place , Veterans Fast for Life for Peace in Central America, accessed June 2, 2010
  14. Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 20, 1986, A12
  15. Memorial programme brochure, Sep.6, 1986
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