Two men told the truth in Washington this week. Both caused problems for President Obama. But one already has been forgiven, while the other has sparked enough anger inside the White House that official absolution could be a long time coming.
The two men are Vice President Joe Biden and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Both are in the hot seat because of things they said or wrote. Biden, as he often does in public, was way too candid in remarks he made at Harvard about the role several American allies played in unintentionally fueling the growth of Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria. Panetta, as he rarely is in public, was way too undiplomatic in his assessment of Obama's leadership and foreign policy, using his new book to give support to some of the president's harshest critics.
In both cases, a firestorm was ignited, making the president's job much more challenging as he tries to build a sustainable coalition in the Muslim world and works to rally domestic political support for what he says will be a long-term war against the extremists.
Neither man, of course, should be surprised by the reaction. These, after all, are two men who know the ins and outs of Washington better than almost anybody else in D.C. At ages 71 and 76, Biden and Panetta are fixtures of the Washington establishment. Between them, they have spent 71 years in office here. Biden has been in Washington 41 years; Panetta has spent 30 of the last 47 years in Washington.