Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are “appealing to the worst in American people,” former Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos during an interview on Tuesday. He said the first responsibility of the President is to bring people together, “and so I worry that if a Trump or Cruz ever got elected that this country would be further divided rather than unified.”
Panetta chalks up Trump’s success in the polls to the former reality-TV star’s showman tactics.
“He’s somebody who understands how to perform to the American people, to say things to attract attention,” he told Ramos. “Because people are angry and are frustrated, and they hear somebody who’s saying things that often times appeal to their worst instincts, I think that’s what’s giving him the momentum that he has.”
Panetta—who served as CIA chief and then Defense chief during Obama’s first term—has openly criticized the President’s strategy to combat ISIS in Syria, but said he was hopeful the U.S. could defeat the Islamic State. Military efforts would need to be intensified.
Ramos asked whether special forces would be sufficient to fight ISIS, or if more troops on the ground would also be necessary to destroy the threat.
“I don’t think the choice here is between 140,000 American boots on the ground or no boots on the ground,” Panetta said.
He explained airstrikes would need to be intensified along with additional special forces to help train ground forces with the Iraqis and Syrians, in order to push ISIS out of the territories they’ve acquired.
“I think it is possible to achieve that using a limited force, working with our allies to try to accomplish the mission,” he told Ramos. “I am confident that we have the capability to win this war.”
Watch the full interview below