The rest of the world is learning about Leon Panetta's style -- or at least The New York Times is. Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller is checking in with an article about the Panetta style -- a kind of plain-talking, occasionally salty approach that local people have known well ever since Panetta hit the local political scene some 35 years ago.
Bumiller covered the new Defense Secretary as he made the rounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she remarked as to Panetta's freewheeling, almost unguarded approach to speaking in public.
"...(I)n substance and style — from a relentless focus on military intelligence and quashing Al Qaeda to salty remarks that left his aides scrambling to provide him cover — (Panetta) is another species entirely. A new era at the Pentagon has begun."
Bumiller counted up 16 "damns" and "hells" and one unprintable remark about Osama Bin Laden.
For those who have known Panetta over the years, it's hardly surprising that success isn't changing his style. He's now 73 -- he's reached the age where, like Popeye, he can say "I y'am what I y'am."
Or, as Ms. Bumiller reports: "Although Mr. Panetta was once a member of Congress and served as budget director and chief of staff in the Clinton White House, by tradition he rarely spoke in public over his two and a half years at the C.I.A. At the Pentagon he has been unleashed to his natural state, schmoozing and holding forth, although his liberation — and new scrutiny of every word he utters as defense secretary — means his staff has to do some tidying up."
I say the new informal, unpackaged approach is great. Call it local pride or call it a love of plain talk -- Panetta's entrance onto the stage of world leadership is welcome indeed.