The White House on Monday rejected claims by ex-Pentagon chief Leon Panetta that President Barack Obama is too reticent to take on opponents and lacks the passion to lead.
Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest also pointedly questioned the etiquette of former senior US officials dishing the details of their relationship with the president while he is still in office.
Earnest said Obama had displayed his leadership skills as recently as over the last few weeks in taking on the Islamic State and the Ebola crisis.
The spokesman said this was very much in line with Obama's statesmanship when Panetta led the CIA between 2009 and 2011 and the Defense Department between 2011 and 2014.
"The leadership that the president demonstrated over the last several weeks is entirely consistent with the leadership that the president has shown over the last six years," Earnest said.
Earnest also hinted at some White House frustration at criticism of the president's decisions contained in Panetta's book, which follows tomes by ex-secretary of defense Robert Gates and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, which also spilled administration secrets.
"Anybody in any administration who has served in prominent positions like that has to make a decision about how and when and whether to talk about their experience serving the president of the United States," he said.
USA Today reported that in his book's final chapter, Panetta writes that the president's "most conspicuous weakness" is "a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause."
Obama too often "relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader," Panetta wrote and "avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities."
The paper also wrote how Panetta, a Washington veteran, praised Obama's intelligence and convictions. But the critique of Obama will draw the most attention -- especially as it plays into existing criticisms of the president's behavior and political liabilities.
Panetta's "Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace," is set for release Tuesday by Penguin Press.