January 13th, 2014
05:06 PM ET
8 months ago

Obama: Gates did an 'outstanding' job as defense secretary

Updated 5:40 p.m. ET, 1/13/2014

(CNN) - President Barack Obama, speaking for the first time since news outlets obtained copies of former Defense Secretary Gates' book, which was critical of the commander in chief, said Monday that Gates did an "outstanding job" during his time in his administration.

"War is never easy and I think all of us who have been involved in that process understand that, but I want to emphasize that during his tenure here Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine and I'll always be grateful for his service," Obama said.

In his memoir, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," set to be published this week, Gates writes that Obama questioned his own policy in Afghanistan.

Obama notes, as Gates does in the book, that he and the defense secretary developed the strategy for Afghanistan. The President maintained, however, that it was the appropriate action to take and one that his administration will continue to follow.

"It think that what's important is that we got the policy right, but that this is hard and it always has been," Obama said.

"Whenever you've got men and women that you are sending into harm's way after having already made enormous investments in blood and treasure in another country, than part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details on it and recognize that there are enormous sacrifices that are being made and you're constantly asking yourselves questions about how you can improve the strategy."

Obama made the comments in the Oval Office during a bilateral meeting with President Mariano Rajoy Brey of Spain.

On Sunday, Gates defended his book against criticism faulting him for his harsh comments about an administration in which he recently served, saying that the polarizing political culture in Washington was quick to focus on the negative comments he wrote about the President, instead of the positive remarks also included in the book.

CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • Robert Gates
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "since news outlets obtained copies of former Defense Secretary Gates' book, which was critical of the commander-in-chief"

    Right...and it wasn't critical of the GOP/Teatrolls in congress? It EXCORIATES them. But of course that's not news when that's the party that feeds the MSM the most red meat controversy to report on. Gotta prop 'em up, eh CNN?

    January 13, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "War is never easy and I think all of us who have been involved in that process understand that, but I want to emphasize that during his tenure here Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine and I'll always be grateful for his service," Obama said.
    -------------------------------------------------
    A class act our President is and a consummate statesman.
    This is exactly how he should've responded.
    Don't bite Mr. President.

    January 13, 2014 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  3. tom l

    @Sniffit
    ""since news outlets obtained copies of former Defense Secretary Gates' book, which was critical of the commander-in-chief"

    Right...and it wasn't critical of the GOP/Teatrolls in congress? It EXCORIATES them. But of course that's not news when that's the party that feeds the MSM the most red meat controversy to report on. Gotta prop 'em up, eh CNN?

    ========

    So...have you read the book yet? The release date is January 14. And I just read the review of how he EXCORIATES Congress. Are you aware that half of that EXCORIATED Congress is run by the dems? Did you read what the criticisms of Congress were? Wow. Come on, Sniffit. You're better than that.

    January 13, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Too bad Obama will never be able to do anything great. Obama will go down as a president who lied openly to the public month after month after month with zero consequences. Obama needs to be held accountable for his actions, for the countless blatant lies to Americans.

    January 13, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. shorething32

    Obama will never be able to do anything great. He goes down in history for telling lies, for destroying Americans financially, and screwing over everyone from little babies to Veterans. Obama needs to be accountable for his actions and the media needs to stop praising him.

    January 13, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. sonny chapman

    Biden wanted Obama to pull out of Afghanistan ASAP, leaving behind Special Ops only(Bin Laden was still alive). The US Military Brass wanted an "Honorable Withdrawal" to save face. Obama sided w/the Brass.

    January 13, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  7. Scott

    One thing Obama did do that is good was forcing credit card companies to apply over the minimum payments to the higher interest rates on cards.

    January 13, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Scott

    Will Obamacare add a dime to the deficit, or a $Trillion?

    January 13, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  9. The REAL Truth...

    @Anonymous – Too bad Obama will never be able to do anything great. Obama will go down as a president who lied openly to the public month after month after month with zero consequences. Obama needs to be held accountable for his actions, for the countless blatant lies to Americans.
    ---------------------------–
    too bad that you've been assimilated. Try asking why? every now and again...

    January 13, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    @Anonymous, you sound like a fox excrete watcher, when did he lie? GOP ruse made companies to cancel insurances–we'll it is given ONE YEAR back lash, it is not a lie. Yes, Your Bush the thush lied,lied,lied on WMD. It drained 16 trillion treasury. Don't watch bull fron fox idiocy. O.k, yes, ACA is a Law, need for USA for decades. Why didn't GOP garbage pass laws like that? You appreciate him later.

    January 13, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "but I want to emphasize that during his tenure here Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine and I'll always be grateful for his service," Obama said."

    Well said, Mr. President. Well said indeed.

    January 13, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Ol' Yeller

    "for the countless blatant lies to Americans"

    You must be having some problems with your numbers then. The only 'lie' I have heard you righties go off the deep end on is the 'you can keep your insurance' nonsense from the campaign. He should have never have said it, he apologized, and he tried to correct it the best he could.
    Nowhere near the mushroom cloud, WMD's, death panels, no birth certificate, associating with terrorists, Kenyan, etc ... BS from the right, which we never got an apology for, no attempt to correct, and frankly they would tell again on the grandmother if they thought it would help them politically.

    January 13, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. Facts

    Chemical weapons were found in Iraq. Another fact is the chemical weapons by definition are WMDs, however the amounts didn't live up to the hype, but weapons were found.

    January 13, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    Mr. President – you are a class act. Let the faux news wailing and gnashing of teeth begin.

    January 13, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    @Anonymous–I think everybody should be held accountable for their action. And as long as George W is living I will believe he should be held accountable for, destroying the economy, filling thousands upon thousands of graves needlessly, lying constantly to the people, torture, wire tapping.........don't you? Or was that okie dokey with you?

    January 13, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. GOP = Greed Over People

    As least the President acts like a statesman, unlike prior members of his Cabinet.

    January 13, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the Repub/tea bag majority

    @tom l: From Gates' recent interview with CBS:

    RITA BRAVER: "I think what people are troubled by is that you criticize President Obama on actions, particularly on his commitment to the war in Afghanistan, while it’s still going on, and people are saying, ‘Look, that’s just not right.’"

    ROBERT GATES: "I make very explicit in the book that I agreed with all the president’s decisions on Afghanistan, the ones that he made in 2009 and subsequently. My one concern was that over the course of 2010 and early 2011, the president began to have reservations about whether it would all work. That didn’t seem like an unfair thing to say."

    The GOP and RWNJs would like you to believe that Gates disagreed with President Obama on everything and thought the President's leadership was poor. But Gates didn't; if he had, Gates would have resigned or taken his concerns public.

    The Fox sheeple will continue to believe the lie, however ...

    January 13, 2014 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. ja

    Gate is full of it and he didn't make a statement about the lie that started the wars, Gates is on par with whale manure,(Ed Snowden) suddenly he has an eye opener, BS, everybody is writing books at the expense of President Obama, racism alive and thriving, we never should have went to the Middle East,

    January 13, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  19. @RI_Roger

    What did you think the President would say?

    January 14, 2014 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  20. Thomas

    @Anonymous
    Too bad Obama will never be able to do anything great.
    @shorething32
    Obama will never be able to do anything great.

    ============

    Reince Priebus is that you ?

    January 14, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |