Leon Panetta enters the 'No Spin Zone', Part 3

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Impact Segment" tonight, our final segment with Leon Panetta, author of the new book "Worthy Fights" just out today.

So I need a very direct answer on this, all right?

LEON PANETTA: Of course.

O'REILLY: Who is the better leader, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama?

LEON PANETTA: They are both bright. They are both able. They both want to do what's right for the country. I think the difference is that Bill Clinton likes politics, likes the engagement in politics. Barack Obama does not like that process of engaging in politics and I think that hurts this president.

O'REILLY: how does it hurt it? If he doesn't like the political spectrum and dealing with Congress and other things with foreign leaders --

LEON PANETTA: It hurts him in terms of getting things done. You have a stalemate in Washington to begin with where there's such partisanship and division that's going on in the congress. And then, you know, if the President doesn't engage with them, then you have a situation where everybody gives up and they have basically given up on things. They have given up on the budget deal. They've given up on immigration reform.

O'REILLY: They've given up.

LEON PANETTA: They have given up on issues like infrastructure funding, on trade, on energy. I mean that is what concerns me, because I think this country cannot stand another two-and-a-half years of stalemate.

O'REILLY: Which you're going to have and if the President loses the senate, which he very well may, you're going to have a real lame duck situation.

Now Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State while you were Secretary of Defense -- right.

LEON PANETTA: That's right.

O'REILLY: And you know here very well. You were chief of staff and she was running the country, right? When you were chief of staff for Bill Clinton, was it?

LEON PANETTA: She was very involved.

O'REILLY: Very involved. But she wasn't so involved in the State Department because you've got cable after cable saying the security in Libya was bad and she didn't really do anything about it. Is that unfair?

LEON PANETTA: I think it's unfair because if I know Hillary Clinton, if she knew that there was a security problem in Benghazi, she would have done something about it.

O'REILLY: Then why didn't she know if the cables exist telling the State Department, look, we need more people here. The British have been attacked there.

LEON PANETTA: You know what Bill -- I don't know that bureaucracy. I know the Defense Department. I don't know what happened at the State Department, but I know one thing. If she had known that that -- that there was a problem there in Benghazi, she would have done something about it.

O'REILLY: Shouldn't she have fired the people who didn't tell her because nobody got sacked except the whistleblowers that said, hey we asked and we didn't get.

LEON PANETTA: I mean I would have been concerned about not receiving that information if, in fact, it was out there.

O'REILLY: Ok. Now, when you think back about how the country has changed in the six years since Barack Obama has been president, I am worried about this country.

LEON PANETTA: Me too. Me too.

O'REILLY: And what is your primary concern?

LEON PANETTA: Look, I'm the son of Italian immigrants and my parents believed deeply in the American dream. And my father used to tell me the reason he came to this country is because my mother and he believed they could give their children a better life. I'm worried about whether or not our children are going to have a chance at a better life.

You have this tremendous dysfunction in Washington. You've got a number of threats that we're confronting abroad. We're dealing with a situation where I think this country can go one of two directions. We can either be a great country -- an America in renaissance or we could be an America in decline.

O'REILLY: We are in decline now. Would that be a fair statement?

LEON PANETTA: I think right now --

O'REILLY: We are in decline.

LEON PANETTA: -- we govern either by leadership or crisis. And today we are largely governing by crisis.

O'REILLY: Look, when you say, when President Obama says and you agree with him here, that arming Syrian rebels who we don't even know much about is going to blunt the ISIS fanatics. Guys like me say that's just bull. That's not going to happen. You can make a little plan or whatever, but what's going to have to happen is there's going to have to be a sophisticated fighting force on the ground against these animals. That's what's going to have to happen.

President Obama doesn't have the heart or the will to do it. The next president may. But you're not going to defeat them by training Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia and giving them a few weapons. That's not going to work and you know it's not going to work.

LEON PANETTA: You're dealing with a very dangerous and fanatical enemy in Syria. And frankly it's not going to work just to do air attacks without having troops on the ground who know where the targets are and what's going on. Now, if we have People that we can trust on the ground, that's fine. But if the military thinks that we ought to have Special Forces, boots on the ground in order to do what's right, I think the President ought to be open to that kind of --

O'REILLY: Once again he's not. Once again he is not leading. No, he said he wasn't. He said it a number of times. He's not open to that. And that brings me to my last question. It's very possible Barack Obama is just not up to the job.

LEON PANETTA: I don't believe -- I don't believe that, Bill.

O'REILLY: You don't want to believe it.

LEON PANETTA: No, because I want this president to be successful, I want this country to be successful.

O'REILLY: I know.

LEON PANETTA: And I think deep down, you know, he knows what needs to be done. What he's got to do is develop the will to fight, to get into the ring --

O'REILLY: He better get on it.

LEON PANETTA: In order to make it happen.

O'REILLY: He better get on it.

LEON PANETTA: I agree with you.

O'REILLY: All right. Leon Panetta, thanks for taking the fire here.


O'REILLY: The highlight of your week, wasn't it?

LEON PANETTA: Yes. And I'm heading back to California.

O'REILLY: I know. I have known Mr. Panetta, Secretary Panetta for a long time. And he is -- you're just an honest man and a great public servant and I want everybody to know that.

LEON PANETTA: Thanks. I appreciate that.

O'REILLY: Thanks for coming in.

PANETTA: Thanks Bill.

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