Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is ending his tenure as Pentagon chief. As his plane returned home from his final official overseas trip, his staff gathered to salute him. He was presented a symbol of his 19-month tenure: a plastic meat ax.
It was appropriate because during the nation's fiscal crisis he has been struggling to protect the defense budget from billions in automatic spending cuts he repeatedly compared to a meat ax.
Panetta may go down in history as the CIA director who got Osama Bin Laden, but his 19 months as Defense Secretary came at a critical moment dominated by the nation's fiscal crisis and an endless struggle to protect the defense budget from billions in automatic spending cuts.
For President Barack Obama, Panetta's experience as a congressman and as budget director in the Clinton administration made him the perfect choice to take on Capitol Hill.