November 14th, 2008
01:05 PM ET
5 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. Obama-Junkie, IL

    Gates is okay as Secretary of Defense. I say personally, let him go. Replace him with either JOHN KERRY or CHUCK HAGEL!

    Secretary of State = Bill Richardson
    Secretary of Defense = Chuck Hagel
    DNC Chair = Claire McCaskill

    If Hillary supporters want to see her in an Obama Administration, Obama could put her in as Secretary of Health. That is the only position I would trust Hillary in.

    November 14, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. Paul

    Robert Gates has been a breath of fresh air, and a very competent Secretary of Defense. I hope he stays on.

    November 14, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. just a thought

    will mccain take this mans job??

    November 14, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. Sue, Corning

    I know there are more capable men or women in this country who can do a better job than Gates. Number one, he was appointed by Bush, and that alone means that he needs to go and I do mean go. The only way we are going to get any credit around the world is to let ALL of the Bushies and theirs out of DC and away from the mess that they have caused. I know iti s going to take us more years than eight to try to straighten up the mess this man has caused us around the world.

    November 14, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Gates hasn't been around that long and frankly I haven't heard too much praise for him. Get General C. Powell and call it a day.

    November 14, 2008 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. Credit Card Republicans

    If Obama keeps this guy,he loses my backing.I dont trust him as far as I could throw him.Didnt we learn anything from putting the first Bush in office.

    November 14, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  7. Milhouse van Houten

    It would seem very prudent of the new administration to keep someone like Gates around to help through the transition period,perhaps even longer depending on the situation at hand.It is a position that is best handled by someone who at least has a grasp of the goings on and not left to someone to learn on the job.

    November 14, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. Jeff Brown

    Get rid of him!!!!!

    November 14, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Mike

    If the American people criticize Obama at all during the next 4 years....does that automatically make us racist?

    November 14, 2008 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Jaye

    Chuck Hagel is the man for Gates job.
    I think all the Bush men should be let go.

    November 14, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. SIMP

    let this loser go. he is a bush man and we need to clean out as much of that diaster that we can.

    November 14, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Yang in VA

    Robert Gates is a very decent person and a good secretary. He has fundamentally changed the approach that Pentagon took towards two wars.

    The mess is now a given. Complaining is useless. Looking forward is the solution.

    November 14, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Mel

    Okay, i need to know why you in the media are talking Obama not attending his grandma's funeral.

    Did Obama ever go to his "beloved" grandmother's funeral?

    Gee, I thought she was his "rock" "cornerstone foundation"!?!

    Let's see, she died on a Tuesday and today is day number eleven.

    When did he go to pay grandme some respect? He went to
    Washington to see his new house...right?

    November 14, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  14. JL

    Does anyone else find it funny that there is an article on the ticker about how a CIA master and current Defense Secretary can keep a secret?

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

    November 14, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Darth Vadik, CA

    Dream on Gates, your filthy non-investigation of Karl Rove and the rest of the Bush thugs will get you about as close to the Democratic administration as I am to the Beta XZ5 gallaxy (200 million loght years away)

    November 14, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. Frank

    I would prefer Colin Powell, but as long as its a rational Republican I'll be satisfied. The process of getting us out of Iraq needs to have a Republican face.

    And, while we are at it, why not a Republican (like William Cohen) for the State Department.

    It's time to depoliticize our defense and foreign policy. Destroying bipartisanship in those areas was the Bush administration's original sin.

    November 14, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. Eric

    secretary gates is well-respected around the world and within DoD. although there are many who are as capable, it is not prudent to change out the leadership of the defense dept in the middle of a war, especially if gates is making great progress with undoing the cluster-screw that rumsfeld pt us in. if he wants to stay, pres. obama couldn't be served by a more respected, intelligent, and savvy patriot who can work across both sides of the aisle. don't let your dislike of pres. bush extend to the few great americans in his adminstration who are competent and dedicated to the cause of our nation.

    November 14, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  18. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    How about David Gergen for Sec. of State? He would be brilliant, though I would still be happy with Sen. Clinton!

    November 14, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  19. Once you vote Black

    I would like to see Powell or Hagal in this post. Kerry should be SOS. Hillary does not and should not play 2nd fiddle to anyone. She needs to run again in 12 or 16. There is not place in the Bid Daddy O Show for Hillary. She is a good NY Senator and should run for POTUS some other time. Keep your enemy close Obama but not too close.

    November 14, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. Terry, Lakeland Florida

    let this loser go. he is a bush man and we need to clean out as much of that diaster that we can.
    ---------------
    What makes him a loser? Of you're a closed Dem who would rather through out qualified people for worthless party members. How about Obama keep his word and pick a staff of QUALIFIED people regardless of which party them belong to.....or are the borken promises and lies going to continue?

    November 14, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  21. Willy Brown

    Obama is putting the old Clinton Staff back together to run his Admin. So much for that "Change" crap but you democrats fall for that everytime! One term and he's voted out in 2012!

    November 14, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. Nick

    I agree with Powell. He's be good there.
    But Gates is okay in my book too.

    November 14, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. gt

    i hope so. the rest of the names are wash up loosers to obama or bush anyway

    November 14, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  24. LyonsPhilly

    If he has no interest........NEXT!!!

    November 14, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. Salt

    Mike November 14th, 2008 3:23 pm ET

    If the American people criticize Obama at all during the next 4 years….does that automatically make us racist?

    -------------------------------

    No, but asking that question does automatically make you appear to be very stupid.

    November 14, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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