The yet-to-be published Bob Woodward book, Obama's Wars, has lots of insider details about the rancorous debate among administration officials as they tried to decide on a new strategy for Afghanistan.
One question that comes up with every Woodward book is why administration officials talk to him since his books do not always show White House officials in a flattering light. Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered his defense – Woodward was not asking anything new.
It's an interesting tap dance for Gates. He has condemned the website Wikileaks for posting classified documents, but Woodward books often reveal a lot of classified information. Gates wouldn't comment on that when asked Thursday.
Also, Gates supported the president's decision to fire General McChrystal after comments by his aides about administration officials were published in a Rolling Stone article. There are equally caustic remarks about administration officials in the Woodward book.
Asked by CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence why Gates talked to Woodward, he said he was the last one to do so and the questions were about general policy matters. He got the questions in advance.
"I think that he had some specific questions about overall issues and about the strategy. We didn't get into any specifics about issues or anything like that," Gates said. "I had his questions in advance, and they were, sort of, at the 40,000-foot level, about tone and atmosphere and the role of the president in this process. These were issues I'd spoken to publicly and so I felt comfortable responding."
Being last is not a new thing for the defense secretary. Gates said for the last book, the author interviewed him at the end of the line as well, "to the point where the book was already in galleys at that point," Gates observed.