Robert Gates: Obama Bashing 'Was Not Unfair'

Former defense secretary takes on backlash over 'Duty'
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2014 2:00 PM CST
Robert Gates: Obama Bashing 'Was Not Unfair'
The book "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Robert Gates today took on the backlash that greeted his memoir, Duty, Politico reports, saying that his criticisms of the Obama administration were relatively restrained and justified. "My one concern was that over the course of 2010 and early 2011, the president began to have his own reservations about whether it would all work," he said. "I think that is not an unfair thing to say." Highlights of his interview with CBS' Sunday Morning:

  • On Obama and Afghanistan: "It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed. President Bush did that with the troops. I did not see President Obama do that. It was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success that disturbed me."

  • On the timing of the book: "[The book] deals with getting into wars [and] getting out of wars. With the experience and perspective of working for eight presidents, and having been secretary for four and a half years, I didn't think that waiting until 2017 to weigh in on these issues, and in a comprehensive and thoughtful way, made any sense."
  • On that time he agreed with Joe Biden: "One time when I agreed with him on something—often Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I would ride back to the Pentagon together from the White House—and Mullen turned to me at one point [and] said, 'You know that you agreed with the vice president this morning.' And I said, 'Yeah, that's why I'm rethinking my position.'"
  • On Hillary Clinton: "The thing that I liked best about Secretary Clinton, other than the fact that she has a great sense of humor, was she is very tough-minded." Would she make a good president? "Actually, I think she would."
  • On how he knew it was time to make an exit: "I became very emotionally caught up with the troops, and it got to the point where I couldn't speak to them, or about them, without choking up, and that was another reason why I thought it's time to go."
(More Robert Gates stories.)

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