November 14th, 2008
01:05 PM ET
6 years ago

Gates keeps mum on possible Obama administration job

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Gates is avoiding questions about his future.
Gates is avoiding questions about his future.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – In the best tradition of the CIA spymaster he once was, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is still holding his cards close on whether he has had any discussions with President-elect Obama about remaining at his post in the new administration.

Speaking tersely to CNN in a Pentagon hallway Friday, Gates said, "Nice try," when asked if he or his staff had spoken to the president-elect or his staff.

He said he had "nothing to add" to a statement he made earlier this week in which he told reporters, "I have nothing new to say on that subject."

But Gates' non-answers are a change from earlier in the year, when the idea seemed more remote.

"The circumstances under which I would do that are inconceivable to me," Gates craftily replied in an April 2008 Pentagon news briefing.

Asked later in the summer while touring Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, he gave the same answer, but added an all-important qualifier: "I've learned never to say never."

Behind the scenes, there continues to be chatter about whether Gates will have a role in the new administration.

Several months ago the Obama campaign called Gates to ask if he would be willing to stay on, according to a source who was in the room when the call came.

The source said Gates' initial response, after he hung up the phone, was that he was not likely to stay.

But lately Gates has confided to close associates that he might be around a bit longer, according to the source.

Sources inside the Obama transition team have told CNN that the idea of Gates staying "for a certain period" is a real possibility.

It is, as another source said, "the approach that carries the greatest support, currently."

– CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger contributed to this report

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Gia in Los Angeles

    It would be good to keep him during the transition until everyone else is up to speed. They can then bring someone else in to ease into the role, to make sure there are no gaps in security.

    November 14, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. mume

    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah I'm so sick and tired of this crap

    November 14, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. Zain

    Dr. Gates is an excellent Defense Secretary. He's cleaned up a great deal of the mess created by Rumsfeld and I think its important that in this day and time we sustain a sort of stability in the DoD as the transition comes upon us. He will not be the long term guy there, but he's an excellent guy to be there for 1-2 years to keep things smooth for now. Anyone who says Gates isnt doing a good job is frankly very ignorant. (And I'm a lifelong Democrat who happens to recognize talent even from the other side)

    November 14, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. EqualBranchesofGovernment

    Secretary Gates has done an outstanding job in the wake of the turmoil left by Donnie Rumsfeld at the Pentagon........He deserves to stay on for the Obama administration until a more permanent succesor is found.

    November 14, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. Who Cares

    "Isn't keeping a secret the #1 requirement in his career field? Tee hee hee."

    No. Tee hee.

    The primary requirement is to possess the administrative skills to manage one of the largest organizations in the world. Near the top are visionary leadership, having the respect and loyalty of his subordinates, and the ability to interact effectively with a largely self-serving political machine. Gates qualifies.

    November 14, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. Mama

    Gates seems to be a nice guy,but so did Putin.Hes got to go,cant trust anyone Bush put in.Now MEL,go and wash your hands and get ready for supper,youve been playing on that computor too long.

    November 14, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Patriot

    So much for CHANGE look like a return of washed up ol' Clinton administration just 8 years more senile. Just another promise of change unfulfilled by a dishonest man.

    November 14, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Chris

    What is the purpose of Robert Ggates traveling to Lithuania and spreading his idea of anti ballistic shield constructed in Poland to defend Europe and America from attack by Iran and North Korea???
    Is is not the idea that originated from Rumsfeld and GW Bush Jr.
    I see it as "all of the same" and nothing for "change"

    November 14, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. Jason

    My understanding is that Sec. Gates is very well respected by the leaders of the Democratic party, including President Elect Obama so I would welcome him as our defense secretary. Let's not forget that it was Sec. Rumsfeld and not Sec. Gates that led us into this mess.

    If he's the best man for the job, then let's keep him there regardless of who appointed him. After all, isn't that what PE Obama pledged to do?

    November 14, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Dianne

    Senator John Kerry is a better choice for Secretary of Defense.

    November 14, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Gracie

    Gates knows his clock may be on the short end of the ticking spectrum. He's expendable, just like everyone else. I would get rid of him and start fresh with someone more in command of our Defense. Right now, I wouldn't trust any of Bush's cronies.

    November 14, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. Rockford

    I would replace him...

    SOS – Wright
    SOD – Ayers
    SOC – Rezko
    SOA – Oprah
    SOI – Daly

    November 14, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  13. 3strikes

    nobama got everybody all riled up on "change", then he downplayed it knowing that its pretty much not goin to happen. the only "change" that happens is when the old potus leaves and the new one comes in, thats it. nobama and his false image duped over 65 million people. his ushering in a whole lot of former clinton staffers, no "change" in that andndont tell me the clinton years were great, because all we got out of them was liers and an adulterer. nothing but washington insiders that are only goin to look out for theirselves.

    November 14, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. Retired Army in San Antonio

    It would be a good thing if Gates stayed on......at least for a while. Gates has been a preety good SecDef, far better than Rumsfield could ever be!

    Gates understands how to run a governmental organization and he has a solid understanding of the military and of people. Most importantly, he understands the need to listen to the professional Soldiers (Generals/Admirals/Senior NCOs), the need to heed their advice and the need to let THEM do their jobs!

    Thing is......Gates only planned to be the SecDef for a couple years....as a favor to Bush. So......we'll see.....

    November 14, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. Edwina

    Mel, if you paid attention, you would note that the President-Elect is planning on returning to Hawaii for a memorial service prior to the 1.20.09. That service is consistent with his grandmother's wishes, not your political agenda.

    November 14, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Retired Army in San Antonio

    For all you anti-Obama folks moaning over the 'Clintonites' working in the new Administration......think about it.

    Think about the fact that of all the Democrats with 'White House' experience over the last 25+ years......THEY ALL......worked in the Clinton White House!

    So......if Obama wants people with White House experience, where is he supposed to look?

    I guess you'd rather have him hire the untested and inexperienced......and fail.

    Yep......I got your number ;-) !

    November 14, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  17. juan baldez

    about the only person I like that Bush has hired. Go back to Texas A&M Mr. Secretary. You've done more than your fair share of work for this country. Obama, with all his puff and fluff, might be served better by somebody like John Kerry.

    November 14, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. bill

    out with gates no bush appointee should be left .including general betray us.eight looong years is enough.the only change can happen is out with all of bushes appointees.

    November 14, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. Strong Team

    I'd like to see Gates as a 4 year member of the eteam as National Security Advisor.

    November 14, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  20. Frantz

    That was a close one Rockford, we save the country for years of turpitude. Can you imagine
    VP: Sarah Palin
    Secretary of State: Joe the Plumber

    November 14, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. RJ, Phoenix

    Wow... just wow.
    I'm amazed at the amount of blind hatred and ignorance here.
    Just because Gates was appointed by Bush does not make him a bad guy.
    He is very well respected by both parties and has done a fine job given the mess he was handed.
    Being a Republican does not automatically make one a Bush supporter or a right wing religious nut.
    Grow up people... this grade school mentality is flat out disturbing.

    November 14, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  22. juan baldez

    "untested and inexperienced." Sound like anybody we know? Uhm, like the guy this country just hired?

    November 14, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. ran

    Gates needs to go. Bring in CP he cares about the troops and will mdo mthe right thing for them and us.

    November 14, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. Bill Hewett

    Yes he needs to go. Once a Bush slave always a Bush slave. He is a republican and he will stab anyone in the back to prove it. Go and live with Bubba and cut bushes on the ranch.

    November 14, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
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