December 11th, 2008
08:22 AM ET
9 years ago

Balancing act: Defense Secretary to bridge two administrations

Gates has the tough task of bridging two administrations.

Gates has the tough task of bridging two administrations.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is learning that becoming the first defense secretary to bridge two administrations can lead to some awkward moments.

Last week, President-elect Obama announced that he would keep Gates on to run the Pentagon.

He still answers to President Bush, since, as both President Bush and President-elect Obama have pointed out, "there's only one commander in chief at a time," Gates said. But he is not blind to the fact that his new boss and his transition team have demands too, which leads to "occasional awkwardness."

Asked for an example, Gates said that at times he's had to choose between meeting with the transition team or meeting with members of the current administration.

Apparently the incoming president's staff wins out over outgoing president's staff.

"Let's just say that if I'm faced with a choice between attending a principals meeting on an issue that I think it not particularly hot, and a meeting with the transition folks, I'll opt for the latter," Gates said.

But the current president doesn't have to worry about being ignored.

"I'm not forgetting at all for a second who is the president until noon on January 20th," Gates said. "I haven't missed any meetings with the president, let me put it that way."

Gates has had "several telephone calls" with the president-elect to talk about personnel to replace the outgoing political appointees, he told reporters traveling with him on a trip overseas.

"We really haven't sat down yet for a thorough discussion of specific foreign policy issues, national security issues," Gates told the traveling reporters, according to a transcript.

He's also met with Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who was in town Monday to meet with the defense secretary and the incoming nominee for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Filed under: Robert Gates
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. thea

    Steve - Don't compare the Presidents to God. That's just dumb.

    December 11, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. A Rob

    I find it hard to validate the comments of anyone that (a) thinks Bush did a good job, and (b) still thinks the US military is the "most effective powerhouse on the planet", when Bush started the Endless War, and the US military keeps killing its allies instead of its enemies.

    If someone wants to be an effective Sec. of Defense, they need to get over this corporate slime attitude of "I don't care how you do it, just do it and don't bother me with the details."

    December 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. Professor Chaos

    Gates was a wise choice. He is respected by both Bush and Obama and is the best man for the job. I did not agree with Gates when he was against the surge, but Gates is smart enough to capitalize on the strengths of his generals, and hopefully, Barry O'bee will demonstrate this trait also.

    December 11, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    It gives me chills down my spine to think if McCain were in Obama's position, he'd be taking orders from Bush. And forget about Palin, she'd probably be on TV every day talking about nothing to do with nothing and shopping.

    December 11, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  5. Tom in Delaware

    Of all the people on either side I;s say this guy is suffering the LEAST amount of stress.

    Still nobdy wants to take over CIA with Eric Holder chomping at the bit to indict them all....go figure.

    December 11, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. clifford

    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and retired marine Gen.Jim Jones for National Security Advisor is "sweet vindication of the Bush doctrine!" There is just no way around it!!

    December 11, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  7. FreeNLovIt

    That's hell there, but I'm confident he has the judgement to balance it out. Men are usually better at giving people their 'SPACES' than women.

    December 11, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  8. Robert O

    "In all the wars we have ever been in, we have NEVER stayed in a
    War THIS LONG !!"

    The Vietnam War was much longer, hayseed.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. FreeNLovIt

    To Larry

    Patience.. patience... we have to get it right and pull out right or you and I will have to sit in the hot desert, chew sticks and stones with camels and be spewed at by them. Give it some time. I'm sure Obama is dying to just pick them all up and drive them all out, but it'll be Hell Part II.

    December 11, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  10. Credit Card Republicans

    I want a military man doing a military job, not a spy.I want a General,preferably one that retired for not lying.

    December 11, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  11. Jim Jam

    Strategy of the right. Since we didn’t win the election, the next best thing is to write in to boards like this, nd asay the most outrageous, divisive things we can think of, in hopes the left doesn’t enjoy one moment of having their people in office.

    Now I have to ask you… Do you think this is good for the country, or does the right not even care what’s good for the country?

    December 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  12. Joyce Becker

    I am sure he can walk and chew gum at the same time, he will be just fine.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  13. Peggy - TX

    If Obama has confidence in Gates, so do I. Gates is a patriot, competent, highly respected and knowledgeable of the current situation.

    December 11, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. Ray Fisher

    When it comes to our national security, everyone should be meeting at one time. These are extraordinary times calling for extraordinary measures. I cannot believe that a conference call, webcam, or something cannot be worked out. National security is ALWAYS bipartisan!!!

    December 11, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. RealityKing

    Didn't Gates laugh at Obama's 16 month withdrawal pledge??

    December 11, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. therealist

    I wonder if he's also OK with Obama letting Iran have nuclear weapons..

    December 11, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. lino man

    Cmpbell Brown a stupid republican? Or she is
    incoerent? Ince is pro Obama, now she attac him in many ways.
    Way she don't' stay home and take care the babys?If she is

    December 11, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    President Obama has to surround himself with people that will help him be President. Keep a few good men like Defense Secretary Robert Gates. but President-elect Obama have pointed out, "there's only one commander in chief at a time."

    December 11, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. sick n tired

    Do you all realize that the Pentagon is also corrupt? (no-bid contracts, billions of dollars missing in Iraq, paying off insurgents so they back off, Blackwater) and the list goes on! As far as i can tell this guy hasn't done too much about any of it and therefore should be shown the door!

    December 11, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. CHI TOWN


    December 11, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. STL-Veteran

    Gates is a good solid choice to get things stablized and our forces redeployed home and to Afganistan. Remember the most important thing is the saftey of those troops serving this country we don't need some nimrod coming in and just packing up and going home, that will get people killed for sure.

    Additionaly I hope Gates works closely with the new VA Sec. we finialy have someone that knows what we have been through and is willing to stand up for the us. Thank God!!!

    December 11, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. NY republican

    Whomever the President is. It's the Secretary of Defence's job to advise and when the decision is made say "Yes Sir, Commander in Chief, Sir!" then go out and do his best to make it work. With the decisions Mr. Gates has had to "make it work" so far this should be no problem after 1/20.
    P.S. President Bush is still his boss for a few more weeks, so he really can't ignore the man.

    December 11, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. mother jones

    Gates will do what is right for America.

    December 11, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Fair Dem

    Gates is not the first Defense Secretary to bridge two administrattions (Robert McNarama for example), merely the first, perhaps, to bridge two administrations of opposite political parties.

    December 11, 2008 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Concerned Democrat

    This is great....but I would rather have more investigative reports on why Obama is pretending not to have talked to Gov. Blog about his Senate Seat.

    December 11, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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