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Bob Gates Bluntly: New Memoir Stars Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates gets a chance to tell his story and does in "Duty." [official White House photo, by Pete Souza]

Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, sitting with many of the people who becomes subjects in his new memoir, “Duty.”
[official White House photo, by Pete Souza]

Gates, a Republican, writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as “a man of personal integrity” even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama’s top aides. [Washington Post]

Bob Gates unburdens himself in his memoir.

Bob Gates unburdens himself in his memoir.

IT’S NOT hard to guess that Bob Woodward enjoyed writing the report on the new memoir of Bob Gates, Duty, which seems to further emphasize the story begun by Rosa Brooks in Politico’s Magazine. Taken together, the foreign policy picture being portrayed of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, as well as those who made up the team who gave the go ahead to get Osama bin Laden, is not only unflattering, but becomes a story during Obama’s presidency while he’s still living it.

The Wall Street Journal has an excerpt.

Rosa Brooks was the first to report this story, specifically about the generals, which Gates continues:

“All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.”

Let’s see, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers,” well, well, well, that could have been said about John F. Kennedy, too.

As for Afghanistan, which Gates also dissects, Vali Nasr began the criticism in The Dispensable Nation, early in 2013.

A military man to his corps, Gates writes about the political calculations of politicians, which are rarely laid out so starkly.

“Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

This is hardly surprising, as war and peace is often weighed as a political calculation. We all remember the selling of the Iraq war by Karl Rove, Andy Card and the Bush administration in 2002, right before the midterm elections.

Around this time, Rove was criticized for telling a Republican group that the war and terror themes could play to the GOP’s advantage in the November elections. Not long after, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was asked why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq. Card replied, `From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.’ [NPR]

Woodward quotes Gates from Duty, also lauding Secretary Hillary Clinton:

Earlier in the book, he describes Hillary Clinton in the sort of glowing terms that might be used in a political endorsement. “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” he wrote.

Gates also critiques the controlling aspect of all things foreign policy inside the Obama White House, which was continued with Susan Rice entering from the U.S., in terms that include Democrats Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, both of whom felt the same as Gates, that they were on the outside.

“I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as [Hillary] Clinton, [then-CIA Director Leon] Panetta, and others) saw as the president’s determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.”

The comparison to “the most centralized and controlling in national security” that rivals Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger is the most disturbing, because it has rippled out to impede the First Amendment rights of reporters and journalists, with the details published in a report by CPJ [Committee to Protect Journalists] in October 2013, revealing the Obama administration’s penchant for control, and punishment.

“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” – Bob Gates on V.P. Joe Biden

There will be partisans lining up to defend their team, with an all hands on deck moment for Vice President Joe Biden. Gates evidently getting amnesia that he and Biden were both against the Libya bombing. V.P. Biden was correct on Pakistan, offering his theory on this very site, as he was on Afghanistan. His relationships worldwide are real and deep. There is little doubt that he steps in it regularly, and the Twittering mass mock him daily. Gates accuses Biden of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership, but there are few politicians with a record of support for the troops that rivals Joe Biden, with his distrust of the brass hardly unique.

It’s also good to remember that Bob Gates was beside CIA Directory Bill Casey when he launched his covert war in Afghanistan against the Soviets that bled into what was then the Soviet Union, which was against international law, unbeknown to President Ronald Reagan, who was purposely kept in the dark. He was also wrong about the advice he gave to Reagan about Gorbachev, which was pointed out by Max Fisher.

President Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates may have thought of his boss as “a man of personal integrity,” but it’s very clear from the reporting that he does not respect his brand of leadership.

So what?

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16 Responses to Bob Gates Bluntly: New Memoir Stars Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter January 8, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    Gosh….what a surprise…a knife in the back from a republican.

    • Taylor Marsh January 8, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      I’m in the minority, but I think this is more about a gulf in philosophy, with Obama ‘s skepticism about involvement too unpredictable for Gates.

  2. Ga6thDem January 8, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    None of this should come as a surprise to any of us around here. It’s old news that Obama resides in a bubble. Also if Obama is upset about this, well, he’s the one that wanted to keep the Bush people.

    • Taylor Marsh January 8, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      What you write is dead on. The bubble is one of the biggest issues.

  3. ladywalker68 January 8, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    So what indeed? As with everything Republican, it is all about $$$$ from the book sales…..yawn….

    • Taylor Marsh January 8, 2014 at 9:12 am #

      Well, as an author, you can’t publish if you don’t deliver something that will sell.

  4. mjsmith January 8, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I do not think there is much new here from what I heard so far.

    Biden being wrong about everything.
    Obama’s primary focus and concern is his own image.
    Hillary Clinton “passion” and flip-flop against the Iraq war entirely political.

    This is just stating the obvious from an insiders point of view.

  5. Ramsgate January 8, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    As you sow, so shall you reap. No conviction. He was NEVER into this war, but he pretend to be to appease the right.
    In his heart he probably KNEW it was not winnable but he was not strong enough, confident enough in his own abilities as a leader or commander-in -chief to take on the generals, or to bring himself to fight for what he wanted. Did I say fight? That word alone is enough to give Obama heart failure.
    So in the end he ended up going along. He caved.

    Obama appears to be the last person in America to understand the vicious nature of today’s conservatives.

    • Taylor Marsh January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

      Emphasis on that last sentence.

  6. PeggySue January 8, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I have to say I was surprised about the Biden comments. Yes, Joe Biden has a self-punishing/mocking way with words but I do not think it’s accurate to say he’s been wrong on all foreign policy assessments. The civil war that’s now brewing in Iraq is one that Biden predicted–three groups that cannot live together, Sunni, Shia and Kurd. After a decade of pointless and costly war I find the Administration’s distaste for military demands somewhat refreshing. POTUS, however, should have pushed back. But as Ramsgate mentions above, the phrase ‘fighting back’ doesn’t seem to register in this WH. The President has always been stuck on the word ‘bipartisan.’

    I guarantee you that despite Gate’s glowing words about Hillary Clinton, the only thing we’ll hear is:

    “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . ”

    Sigh. All too predictable that.

    • mjsmith January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      Sunni, Shia and Kurd populations have lived together peacefully along with Christians and Jews. When you add in radical jihadis into the mix, nobody can live with them.

      Imagine this – there was a time in history when a person could easily travel by train all throughout Western Asia and North Africa.

    • Taylor Marsh January 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

      David Corn tweeted that Iraq was the “new black” for Clinton yesterday.

      Today, Reince Priebus is all over it, saying it’s the “tip of the iceberg.”

      Hillary Clinton has fans and good friends (see Petraeus) from top to bottom in the Pentagon and US military. It’s one reason some progressives don’t trust her.

      Barack Obama could never be understood by Robert Gates. Obama’s foreign policy has been stripped bare by quite a few authors the last year, with Gates just the latest.

      As for Biden, they’re so very, very different men, so much of it has to be on style. Additionally, Gates believes military leaders, because they give their lives, have skin in the game, revealing in the excerpts he has very little respect for politicians.

      Like John F. Kennedy, as well as John Kerry, Democrats question Pentagon authority more readily, a direct turn from Truman. No Republican is comfortable with this.

  7. secularhumanizinevoluter January 8, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    “Imagine this – there was a time in history when a person could easily travel by train all throughout Western Asia and North Africa.”

    Still longing for when white folks ran things huh?

  8. lynnette January 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Sounds interesting to me – should be a good read. Every administration has its good and bad points, as well as its cast of characters. I just hope they have enough intelligent, thoughtful decision makers on board to keep the country (and world) a safer place.

  9. Lake Lady January 8, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    Great piece Taylor and very good comments too. I wish the President would learn to distrust Rethugs like he does military brass. I am interested in reading the book. I am sure Woodward’s review picked out the parts that reinforced his dark view of the Administration.

    I agree that it is more a difference in philosophy. I do think he could have waited. Seems disloyal to his own ideals to complicate Obama’s current foriegn policy.

    • lynnette January 8, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

      I agree with you, Lake Lady.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
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