Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace

Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace

by Leon Panetta, Jim Newton

Audiobook(CD - Unabridged)

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The inspiring and revelatory autobiography of the defense secretary and CIA director who led the intelligence war that killed Bin Laden, among many important roles in a legendary career

It could be said that Leon Panetta has had two of the most consequential careers of any American public servant in the past fifty years. His first career, beginning as an army intelligence officer and including a distinguished run as one of Congress’s most powerful and respected members, lasted thirty-five years and culminated in his transformational role as Clinton’s budget czar and White House chief of staff. He then “retired” to establish the Panetta Institute with his wife of fifty years, Sylvia; to serve on the Iraq Study Group; and to protect his beloved California coastline. But in 2009, he accepted what many said was a thankless task: returning to public office as the director of the CIA, taking it from a state of turmoil after the Bush-era torture debates and moving it back to the vital center of America’s war against Al Qaeda, including the campaign that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. And then, in the wake of bin Laden’s death, Panetta became the U.S. secretary of defense, inheriting two troubled wars in a time of austerity and painful choices.

Like his career, Worthy Fights is a reflection of Panetta’s values. It is imbued with the frank, grounded, and often quite funny spirit of a man who never lost touch with where he came from: his family’s walnut farm in beautiful Carmel Valley, California. It is also a testament to a lost kind of political leadership, which favors progress and duty to country over partisanship. Panetta is a Democrat who pushed for balanced budgets while also expanding care for the elderly and sick; a devout Catholic who opposes the death penalty but had to weigh every drone strike from 2009 through 2011. Throughout his career, Panetta’s polestar has been his belief that a public servant’s real choice is between leadership or crisis. Troubles always come about through no fault of one’s own, but most can be prevented with courage and foresight.

As always, Panetta calls them as he sees them in Worthy Fights. Suffused with its author’s decency and stubborn common sense, the book is an epic American success story, a great political memoir, and a revelatory view onto many of the great figures and events of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611763201
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Leon Panetta served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009–2011, and as secretary of defense from 2011–2013. An Italian American Democrat, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977–1993, the director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993–1994, and President Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994–1997. He is the founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, and has served as professor of public policy at his alma mater, Santa Clara University.

Jim Newton is editor at large of the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked for twenty-five years as a reporter, editor, bureau chief, and columnist. He is the author of two critically acclaimed biographies, Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made and Eisenhower: The White House Years.

Read an Excerpt

I said good-bye to a fallen CIA colleague, a personable, driven young woman named Elizabeth Hanson, on a warm May morning in Washington in 2010. She was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, in the shade of a stately line of willow oaks, amid thousands of American heroes and in the company of hundreds of friends, family, and coworkers from the Central Intelligence Agency. I was at the time the director of the CIA. Elizabeth Hanson had worked for me.

It was a graveside service, modest and brief; she was buried in Area 60, beside many veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, just over a small rise from the Pentagon. Hanson and six other members of our agency were killed on December 30, 2009, at a remote CIA base in the Khost province of eastern Afghanistan. Liz Hanson and her colleagues were there that day to meet a potential agent, a jihadist who said he wanted to work for the CIA and steer us to the leadership of Al Qaeda. Instead, when he arrived at the meeting he detonated a diabolically powerful suicide vest, killing seven of our best and injuring a dozen more. That explosion was a signal tragedy for the CIA—one of the largest losses of life in the agency’s history.

The attack shook the CIA, and I had spent much of that winter and spring consoling our employees and traveling around America to share the grief of the families of those men and women. Hanson’s funeral was the last of seven such services I had attended. They included small private services and a large Catholic mass. Some were packed with dignitaries, others limited to friends and family. I met with mourners in Fredericksburg, Maryland; Virginia Beach; Clinton, Massachusetts; Akron, Ohio; and central Illinois. And this was my third trip to Arlington. After the funeral mass in Clinton, boys and girls stood in the snow outside the church, some quietly waving flags or signs that read, THANKS FOR KEEPING US SAFE. In Akron, the widow of one of our fallen, Scott Roberson, was carrying his child, a girl. One eulogist imagined the day when their daughter would come to visit the CIA and touch the star etched into the marble of our Memorial Wall, marking her father’s sacrifice, her heart full of pride for a man she never had the luck to know.

Two realizations connected all of those ceremonies: Nothing could return those young men and women to their families, and I could only offer them a promise. America would do everything in its power to bring those behind the murders to justice. They hit us; America would hit back.


Excerpted from "Worthy Fights"
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Copyright © 2015 Leon Panetta.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part I Politics and Progress 5

1 "A Better Life" 7

2 "Look at Yourself in the Mirror" 24

3 "You Did What Was Right" 33

4 "No More Excuses" 50

5 "Working for Us" 61

6 "It's the Right Fight" 90

7 "If the White House Is Falling Apart…" 123

8 "We Thought You Would Cave" 152

Part II Protect and Defend 187

9 "The Combatant Commander in the War on Terrorism" 189

10 "Tell It Like It Is… Our National Security Depends on It" 209

11 "Disrupt, Dismantle, Defeat" 239

12 "Everywhere in the World" 270

13 "Go In and Get Bin Laden" 289

14 "To Be Free, We Must Also Be Secure" 332

15 "A New Defense Strategy for the Twenty-first Century" 360

16 "In Together, Out Together" 401

17 "I Cannot Imagine the Pain" 437

Epilogue: Leadership or Crisis 461

Acknowledgments 469

Notes 473

Index 479

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Very readable, with the frank descriptions of personalities and events that distinguishes the genre at its best.” —David Ignatius, The Washington Post
“Young people searching for the role model of a public servant will find few as good as Panetta. . . . A playbook for how to behave with integrity in a city with limited virtue.” —Leslie H. Gelb, The New York Times Book Review

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Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
ivhs72 More than 1 year ago
Top notch and very interesting from someone who saw through the Emperor's new clothes
Mik3MF More than 1 year ago
Clearly written memoir by a man worthy of admiration and trust. I read the book that Robert Gates wrote about this same period in our history. I enjoyed it and then I read Panetta's book which corroborates Gates with few nuances of difference. Both are men I trust. Both write clearly without Washington speak or governmental jargon...both are heroes to me. And both say essentially the same thing about Obama's White Hours, the man, his staff, and his strengths and weaknesses. His credibility is high...Panetta's.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is well written. It turned out to be a page-turner for me. It is as well crafted as his legislation.
PAYDIRT More than 1 year ago
Always am skeptical of these "after action reviews" when someone like Mr.Panetta writes a book after they finish their time in position. Before I even open the book I ask, "How come you didn't say/do/protest something while you had the job? There are a few moments in this book where that very question pops in your head and surprisingly gets answered by Panetta. He doesn't seem to shy away from stating his mind and in many cases disagreeing outright with the President. Politically though he is a Democrat and it comes across subtly. Overall I found the book a great insiders view of a man who had a front row seat to recent events. My biggest disappointment is in Barnes & Noble for not sending me an autographed copy as promised in their promotional email if I ordered "early enough."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His blind eyes flicker around. He hears dariu's voice. Whos there? He asks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While our political views may not be the same. After reading the book by Leon Panetta I believe the things that he has accomplished as the first generation of an immigrant is truly amazing and I enjoyed the book immensely.I now have a great deal of respect for a true patriot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TaffysDad More than 1 year ago
Interesting book about a modern figure who filled numerous high posts in our federal government. Many insights into important events in our recent past. But Mr. Panetta seems to paint a one-sided picture of many events and he always seems to be the one who found the right path. Maybe a little perspective on things that went wrong might have balanced his reminiscences.
jlbrun More than 1 year ago
Shows that He has a lot of good in his comments, despite some of the critical remarks made about his timing. I would rather know of the Administration shortcomings real time rather than just past History
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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GJP48 More than 1 year ago
Although I ahve not finished reading Worthy Flights I find that this book seems to be written very honestly and gives a good insight into both the Clinton & Obama Administrations and Mr. Panetta's duties in both.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't read the book, but have an oppinion. Shame on you Ms. or Mr. Idiot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Its nice."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never did like people who kiss and tell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed in Mr. Panetta. I thought he had more integrity. Was going to buy the book until I read the reviews. Sold out to the publishers for sales. Shame on you Mr. Panetta.