At his public swearing-in ceremony at the Pentagon on Friday, Leon Panetta joked about his emerging reputation as an outspoken Defense secretary—while sharing a stage with Vice President Joe Biden, who is also famous for his bluntness.
“It is something we all know that Joe’s heritage is Irish and mine is Italian. And our parents, as young people growing up in these families, always taught us to speak plainly and directly. And sometimes that’s gotten us in trouble,” said Panetta, who officially took the oath of office three weeks ago in a private ceremony, according to media reports.
“As a result there was some talk here of trying to put a seven-second delay on the microphones for this ceremony. But I can’t imagine why the hell that would be necessary.”
Panetta, whose first overseas trip to Afghanistan and Iraq earlier this month made headlines for his blunt remarks and colorful language, also struck a serious note in his remarks. He acknowledged his upcoming role to lead the budget-cutting charge at the Pentagon, which he said does not have a “blank check from the American people.”
“We will face the fiscal challenges that confront us but we will do it in a way that maintains the strength of our country,” he said. “We must continue to be accountable to the American people for what we spend, where we spend it and what the results are. But I am confident the years I have spent working on budgets … that we can do this in a way that will strengthen us for the future.”
This article appears in the July 22, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.