Skip to comments.Robert Gates Book Portrays Obama as a Different Kind of President
Posted on 01/14/2014 6:00:54 AM PST by Kaslin
Like just about everybody else in Washington and many across the country, I've been reading the excerpts from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' book "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War."
It presents a significantly more negative picture of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton than Gates' statements in office led anyone to expect.
And it presents an interesting contrast with Gates' previous memoir, "From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War," published in 1996.
To be sure, Gates in "Duty" says many positive things about his most recent former colleagues. He calls Obama's decision to target Osama bin Laden the "most courageous" presidential decision he has seen.
He praises Clinton's judgment, her sense of humor and her penchant for hard work. Though he doesn't make the point explicitly in the excerpt, the secretary of state and secretary of defense weren't constant and mistrustful antagonists.
But he also presents some damning testimony. Listening to Obama soon after he had ordered a surge of troops into Afghanistan, "I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand (Hamid) Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his. For him, it's all about getting out."
If this is not cynical enough, he is shocked that Clinton and Obama admit that their opposition to the Iraq surge was politically motivated -- in the presence of Gates, who was in the chain of command on the surge and helped make it work.
As for Vice President Joe Biden, Gates writes that he "has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue" over four decades. And he expresses even more angry contempt for congressional leaders.
Gates wrote "Duty" after leaving government with no intention or expectation of ever returning. But he wrote "From the Shadows," published in 1996, in similar circumstances.
He had risen quickly from a junior Russia analyst at the CIA to positions at the National Security Council in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and first Bush administrations. He was nominated to be CIA director in 1986, but withdrew in the face of congressional opposition; he was nominated again for the post and confirmed in 1991.
In "From the Shadows" he does not always fawn on the leaders he served. "No stranger man in American history" is his verdict on Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan "began to fade a bit beginning in late 1985-early 1986."
He has especially warm praise for George H.W. Bush and his foreign policy team, and notes that Bush had almost a familial relationship with National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft (as George W. Bush would later have with Condoleezza Rice).
He sees Secretary of State James Baker as "a master craftsman of the persuasive and backroom arts at the peak of his powers," but notes that he "demanded more loyalty of the president than he gave in return."
Even more notable than the individual portraits in "From the Shadows" is Gates' argument that there was far more continuity in American foreign policy during the presidencies in which he served than was suggested by partisan rhetoric.
In this view, Nixon's detente with Russia was sealed by Ford's Helsinki Accords, whose human rights provisions were built on by Carter, who began the defense buildup accelerated by Reagan, whose negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev provided the basis for Bush's management of the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Presidents were constantly buffeted from the Right and Left by members of Congress, but, Gates argues, if the process was unpleasant, the results were usually benign.
In the excerpts from "Duty," Gates seems to take a similar view of George W. Bush, a "mature leader" who on the Iraq surge "risked reputation, public esteem, credibility, political ruin and the judgment of history on a single decision he believed was the right thing for the country."
But the excerpts suggest that Gates sees Obama out of line with the continuity he admires in his predecessors.
Clinton and Obama's cynical opposition to the Iraq surge and Obama's half-hearted commitment to his Afghanistan strategy are in jarring contrast with his description in "Shadows" of Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush I.
"For each," he writes, "the country came first," and "each, in his own way, was a modest man." Let's see if in the full text of "Duty" he says the same of Obama.
Listening to the interview, I’d say he didn’t know how to say what he really wanted to say.
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Senator Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and B. Hussein Obama all have voiced support of a single payor Medical Insurance system, totally controlled by the US Federal Government.
Gates come off as a simpleton. He finds intelligence and hard work in Hitlery and deep down admires the phony jackass America has saddled itself with in Barry.
As far as Scranton Joe is concerned, Gates superficially discusses only one serious flaw: he doesn’t know anything about foreign relations. He doesn’t speak to the serious flaw that Biden has: he is inanely stupid.
Much more fun reading Charles Krauthammer’s recent collection of some of his most interesting columns.
I still have problems believing the whole Osama bin laden thing was for real. Dude had been dead for years.
The country comes first for most presidents —but for this one it’s golf outings and vacations.
Id say he didnt know how to say what he really wanted to say.
Gates is a creature of Washington. Nobody in DC speaks directly, honestly or plainly. If you have something to say, at least be clear about it. But that is not the Washington Way.
I agree. I still have not seen any evidence at all that the raid actually occurred and that bin Laden was killed. I don’t believe anything this government says due to their established pattern of lying to the people all of the time.
So why can’t these people start saying things when it matters instead of writing books for profit afterward?
s a ‘different kind of President’!!!! He’s the first who hates America and wants to see her standing in the world diminished and her economic viatlity dimisnished and her ties to the Almighty diminished! He’s a rotten rat bastard traitor!
A stupid, ridiculous comment like that makes it hard to take seriously anything else Gates has to say.
In Obama’s case is that all bad?
ditto. The “Islamic burial tradition” they followed was BS. http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/05/09/osama.bin.laden.burial/index.html
bin laden raid decision was courageous? That was an easy decision for a commander-in-chief.
Mr. Barone, you are a dumbass of biblical proportion. Stop your political commentary immediately, as it evident you are either 1) incapable of seeing what is right in front of your face, or 2) too gutless or afraid to write it down for print.
“As for Vice President Joe Biden, Gates writes that he “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue”
I bet Gates was a fan of McCain. This is pretty much the exact words Biden said about McCain in the 2008 debates.
I didn’t hear the interview, but I think the book gives that impression too. People here are criticizing Gates for making the stock positive comments about Obama, but they’re just the usual disclaimers. It was obvious that Obama is entirely different from the others he worked with, and not in a good way at all, but in such a way that he’s almost afraid to say it.
There was a critical column on the book today in the WSJ complaining that Gates was just a hack, a climber, he’s just doing this because he doesn’t have a position anymore, he shouldn’t have “betrayed” goings on in the WH, etc. The last point was very odd, because it followed Gates’ remarks on how secretive the WH was and how Obama really didn’t make policy (or have it made for him) through the people theoretically in charge of these duties, but through his mysterious political aides. Surely the commentator must have realized that this is exactly why Gates had to go public: even the fawning press isn’t allowed to cover anything except photo-ops anymore, and the Obama WH keeps everything so tightly under wraps that the only way to get anything out is through this sort of “expose.”
And then the commentator remarks that if Gates didn’t like it, he should have said something earlier and quit. In principle, I agree, but I honestly think that Gates, a not very exciting but competent career bureaucrat who regardless of what you think of him, had seen many presidents and administrations, really couldn’t believe what he was seeing this time around and didn’t know what to do.
Did he use the fords “lazy” or “shiftless”
dammit... WORDS... not ‘fords’
grrrrrrrrrrrrrr I am useless at proofreading
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