(CNN) – Bob Gates defended his new book Sunday, after some pundits blasted the former defense secretary for criticizing a sitting president and an administration in which he recently served.
In an interview with CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” Gates said the partisan culture of Washington was quick to focus on the negative statements in the book, but less interested in the positive marks he gave President Barack Obama.
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But he stood by everything he wrote.
"The way people are looking at the book reflects the polarization of our political process at this point," he said. "A lot of people - not everybody – (are) going to look at this book in terms of how does it advance (their) particular political agenda, or how does it damage (their) political agenda.”
‘That's not an unfair thing to say’
Gates, a Republican, was appointed secretary of defense by former President George W. Bush in 2006 and was asked to stay on by Obama. He left the position in 2011.
Indeed, Republicans wasted no time pouncing on the critiques of Obama, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, in the book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War."
Gates writes that Obama lost faith in his own Afghanistan policy, and he details a conversation in which Clinton told Obama she opposed the 2007 Iraq troop surge as a senator because she was facing Obama in the Democratic presidential primary.
He also said that Biden was “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Republicans eager to trounce Clinton before she potentially launches a 2016 presidential bid began using the book as a way to paint her as someone who makes life-and-death decisions based purely on politics.
"That's going to be a big problem,” said Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It's all political, it's ‘Which way does the wind blow? I've got to figure out how I get on that.’"
With Biden also being a possible 2016 candidate, Spicer said “both of them are going to suffer because (Gates) is someone who has a tremendous amount of respect and credibility in this town."
Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said on “State of the Union” that Biden has “been on the right side more often than not.”
He said Biden, Obama and Clinton all ran on the promise of ending the war in Iraq and withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, a promise that so far is on track to ring true if Biden and Clinton run for president.
"They will do well running on that," Elleithee said.
In the interview that aired Sunday, Gates made sure to reiterate the admiration he had for Obama and pointed to the decisions on which they agreed. But he said he felt obligated to publish his thoughts on his one concern.
"Over the course of 2010 or in 2011, the President began to have his own reservations about whether it would all work,” he said. “That's not an unfair thing to say."
Gates also drew a line of contrast between Obama and Bush.
"It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed," Gates told CBS.
"President Bush did that with the troops when I was secretary. I did not see President Obama do that. As I write in the book, it was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success, that disturbed me."
As for Clinton, Gates was asked whether he thinks she would make a good president.
“Actually, I think she would," Gates said.
What about Biden?
"Well, I suppose to be even-handed, I would have to say I suppose he would," he said.
On the timing of the book, Gates said, “I didn't think that waiting until 2017 to weigh in on these issues … made any sense."
Democrats fiercely condemned Gates’ decision to publish a book critical of Obama while he was still in office. Even some Republicans were not comfortable with the move.
Sen. John McCain, who says he has great respect for Gates, said Sunday if he were in Gates' position, he might have waited a little bit longer to release the memoir.
The Arizona senator said the book "surprised all of us who know him, and he's decided to really kind of let loose."
"But I also respect his ability to voice his views any time he wants to," McCain added.
Gates, asked in the interview Sunday if he regretted anything he wrote, replied, “I don’t.”
“I think that it's an honest account,” he said.
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