Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had his harshest words for the Obama White House since excerpts from his new book went public last week, saying that White House advisers calling his critiques of the president overly-political “ought to go look in the mirror.”
Gates spoke to Yahoo News’ Katie Couric on Monday about the continuing controversy around “Duty,” a new tell-all by the longtime defense secretary that blasts President Obama and his staff for distrusting the military and distrusting their own strategy for the war in Afghanistan.
“I just don’t buy this notion that the book shouldn’t have been written, or that it shouldn’t have been written for another three years, or that is a negative narrative about President Obama,” Gates said. “Or a betrayal?” Couric asked. “Or a betrayal,” the secretary added.
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Gates stressed that the relationship between himself and President Obama was not an adversarial one. “President Obama, like President Bush, treated me with amazing generosity and patience and confidence,” he claimed. “I have these concerns, they’re real, I’m not backing off of them. But I also have a lot of admiration for President Obama, and as I said, I supported his policies.”
But that admiration VERY clearly does not extend to the people the president chooses to surround himself with. When Couric asked what Gates thought about White House staff who might wonder “with friends like these” while reading his book, the former defense secretary didn’t mince words.
“For a micromanaging White House, maybe they just ought to go look in a mirror,” he snarked with a smile. “Meaning?” Couric asked. “Meaning maybe they ought to think about the way they do business,” Gates replied. “And I think it’s fair to say that the book is a lot more critical about the people around the president than it is of the president itself.”
Gates did indeed reserve special ire for President Obama’s defense advisers, chiefly Vice President Joe Biden and former national security adviser Tom Donilon. The former secretary claimed Biden and Donilon frequently turned defense questions into political ones, telling the president his military leaders would try to “jam him” and “box him in.”
But that doesn’t mean Gates lets Obama off the hook. “At the end of the day the president controls what goes on inside the White House,” Gates admitted. “The environment and the style of the White House is decided by the president.”
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