The new book written by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War , is due out next week — but pretty much everyone knows what's in it by now, and it's ain't Joe Biden-friendly. Amongst critiques of the White House, Gates said that Vice President Biden basically doesn't know much about anything — although, Gates added, he's a pretty good guy!
Gates, who served under the Bush administration and in the first two years of Obama's, wrote that Biden, although a "man of integrity," "has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Ouch.
National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden issued a statement yesterday on behalf of the White House in response to Gates' critique. Somewhat predictably, it goes on about Biden's accomplishments.
The president disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.
And, in a pretty classy reach-out to Gates himself...
As has always been the case, the president welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies. The president wishes Secretary Gates well as he recovers from his recent injury, and discusses his book.
And as for the rest of the book? Well, Gates was both complimentary and critical of the White House administration, commending Obama's Afghanistan strategy — even though he says Obama was skeptical, if not outright unconvinced, about its success — while bringing up the point that it was only Gates and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who pressed Obama to close Guantánamo.
Gates also spares no pains on himself, admitting that emotions sometimes got in the way of his judgement when it came to national security interests.
He describes how he came to feel “an overwhelming sense of personal responsibility” for the troops he ordered into combat, which left him misty-eyed when discussing their sacrifices — and perhaps clouded his judgment when coldhearted national security interests were at stake.
The book also reveals that he came close to quitting a few times, especially after Obama's "inner circle" at the White House began turning against him. Even though Gates' presence lent the national security team experience and some bipartisanship — Gates was known as "Yoda" at the beginning of his Obama tenure — in the end, as Bob Woodward summarizes, it was Obama's discomfort "with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that [was] providing him options" that led to Gates leaving his post.
In any case, given the hidden-camera look at some of the biggest decisions made in the White House in previous years, the memoir could prove to be a fascinating glimpse at politics behind closed doors.
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