The secretary of defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, someone who has served under a total of eight presidents, likely knows a thing or two about what to watch for in a presidential election. And it just so happens that America has someone with those credentials, and he's not impressed with the current picks. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal , Robert Gates had stern criticisms for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but reserved most of his ire for the Republican candidate, who Gates called "beyond repair."
Fittingly for his defense background, Gates posits that the the first "serious crisis" to face the new president will be international, something that Gates wrote has not been prioritized in this election. Among the things Gates sees the new president inheriting: a tricky relationship with China, compounded by a tepid relationship between China and Japan (a treaty partner with the United States), Kim Jong Un's growing arsenal of weapons in North Korea, and not to mention Vladimir Putin and his continued challenges to efforts by the U.S. and its allies.
Gates paints a pretty grim picture of international relations, but seemingly doesn't have a lot of faith in either of the candidates to handle them with the care and savvy that they will need. Or at the very least he expresses consternation on how tight-lipped they've both been about their plans. Clinton, Gates noted, has said very little about how she would deal with North Korea or handle Putin.
But it wasn't just Clinton's lack of a game plan that Gates took issue with. Gates criticized her lack of foresight in Libya, which she advocated using the U.S. military in to bring about a regime change. He also noted that she has turned on both trade agreements and the troops on the ground in Iraq, after supporting both. All of this, according to Gates, signals a credibility issue that "influence foreign perceptions of reliability and trust."
But speaking of credibility issues, Gates had particularly stern words for the litany of problems with Trump, writing, "When it comes to credibility problems, though, Donald Trump is in a league of his own." Gates then proceeded to go through the laundry list of campaign platforms Trump has presented that would be potentially problematic for international relations, including his Great Wall of Mexico, support of torturing terrorism suspects and their families, his general Putin fanboy-ing, and his approach to our NATO allies.
All of those are certainly issues that someone with international expertise could rightfully criticize, but Gates went even further to say that there is something inherent to Trump's personality that would make him a detriment to U.S. affairs: his unwillingness to heed advice from others. Gates noted that the presidents he has served under have all surrounded themselves with "independent-minded, knowledgeable and experienced advisers who would tell the president what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear." Even though Gates noted that these presidents didn't always take the advice offered to them, they listened to it before making a decision either way.
But it doesn't seem like Gates thinks Trump is capable of doing the same. He wrote:
The world we confront is too perilous and too complex to have as president a man who believes he, and he alone, has all the answers and has no need to listen to anyone. In domestic affairs, there are many checks on what a president can do; in national security there are few constraints. A thin-skinned, temperamental, shoot-from-the-hip and lip, uninformed commander-in-chief is too great a risk for America.
Gates ultimately concludes that though Clinton has been unsatisfactory in addressing many looming questions he has, she can still turn it around in this election. Trump, however, Gates says is "beyond repair." He didn't mince words in a damning final conclusion:
At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.