January 7th, 2014
07:23 PM ET
9 years ago

Republicans use Gates’ new book to hammer Clinton, Biden

Updated 10:02 a.m. ET, 1/8/2014

Washington (CNN) – Republicans quickly pounced Tuesday on some controversial details from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ new book in which he highlights an admission from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he found “dismaying” and fiercely lambasts Vice President Joe Biden.

Both are potential 2016 presidential contenders.

Gates, who led the Pentagon under two presidents from 2006 to 2011, also offered scathing critiques of President Barack Obama and Congress in the memoir, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” which was obtained by CNN and is set to hit bookshelves next week.

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Republicans find new ammunition against Clinton

Gates said Clinton told Obama that she opposed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq for political reasons, as she was running against Obama in the Iowa presidential caucuses at the time.

“The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political,” Gates wrote. “To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

In early 2007, Washington was split on whether to increase the number of troops in Iraq or to start bringing them home. Clinton was among Senate Democrats, including Biden and Obama, who opposed boosting troop levels.

“I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue doing what our young men and women have been told to do, with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys. I am not in favor of doing that unless it’s part of a larger plan,” she said in December 2006 on NBC’s “Today.”

“Everyone knows there is no military solution to the difficulties we face in Iraq,” she continued, saying there needed to be a broader plan that “includes resolving some of the political issues.”

According to CNN/ORC International polling in March 2007, 83% of Democrats opposed President George W. Bush’s plan to send about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

For Republicans eager to get a head start on defining Clinton in anticipation of her possible 2016 presidential run, Gates’ book became quick fodder for negative attacks, even though Gates also complimented her in his memoir.

America Rising PAC, an independent Republican group, e-mailed reporters Tuesday afternoon, claiming her admission as quoted in Gates’ book “is sure to undermine her attempt to position herself as ‘serious’ on foreign policy issues ahead of a likely 2016 run.”

The Republican National Committee soon followed with its own e-mail containing a satirical question: “We’re hearing Hillary Clinton made a decision based on politics. Which one of her Super PACs will respond?”

“Hillary Clinton has a history of making decisions based on politics instead of principle,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a separate comment. “It will be interesting to see how she addresses this with voters who have a long memory of the Clinton ways.”

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for another anti-Clinton group, Stop Hillary PAC, argued the book excerpt proved Clinton is “disingenuous and deceitful.”

"She will do anything, including mislead the country, by putting her political ambitions ahead of the safety of Americans at home and abroad,” he said.

A source close to Gates said the former defense secretary is aware that the line about Clinton opposing the surge for political reasons could hurt her, but he was so stunned to hear her administration–and a less blunt admission from Obama–he felt obligated to print it.

The source said Gates actually has a lot of respect for Clinton, and in his book, he otherwise praised Clinton.

Gates wrote: “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.”

And at Gates’ farewell ceremony in 2011, he had high praise for Clinton, saying she’s become a cherished colleague and a good friend.

David Brock, founder of Correct The Record, a project that frequently defends Clinton, pointed out Gates’ admiration for Clinton in the book.

“Gates’s trust in her seems to be epitomized by the high praise he reserved for her,” Brock said.

DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee also weighed in.

"The President, the Vice President, Secretary Clinton all took office on a promise to end the war in Iraq and defeat al Qaeda so that we could end the war in Afghanistan. That’s what they’ve done," he said, adding "that’s what people will remember.”

Biden accused of ‘poisoning the well’

Gates was not as complimentary about the Vice President, however.

While Gates calls Biden “a man of integrity,” he wrote, “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Biden was tapped to be Obama’s running mate in 2008 largely because of his foreign policy experience. Biden was serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time and had been in the Senate for six terms.

One day after Gates book bonanza, a rare peek into Obama-Biden lunch

Gates also expressed contempt for the Vice President and blamed Biden for "poisoning the well" against the military leaders.

Gates named a specific example of what he considered Biden’s poor judgment in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. He said Biden preferred a “strategy of reducing our presence in Afghanistan to rely on counterterrorist strikes from afar.”

Gates wrote such “’Whac-A-Mole’ hits on Taliban leaders weren't a long-term strategy.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden defended Biden in response to the book.

“The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day,” she said.

Asked about Gates’ opinion of Biden, Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, host of The Situation Room, that he has the “greatest affection” for Biden … and he’s one of the finest men that I’ve known.”

“But he has been wrong on a lot of these issues, there’s very little doubt about that, going back to Desert Storm,” the Arizona Republican said.

McCain was pressed on whether it’s fair to say Biden has been wrong on every issue over the past four decades.

“I don’t want to recount them,” McCain said, laughing. “But he has been wrong on a number of occasions, and he was one of the factors in the whole removal of all of our troops from Iraq.”

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, Dana Bash, Keating Holland and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Joe Biden • Robert Gates
soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. YUCK

    oppersors like to cheat,lie and kill its written through out the American history, does anybody know the history of Hawaii and how it became the 50th state?heheh.once again the oppressors like toooo cheat,lie and kill.

    January 7, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. Guest

    Oh, still time to pop some popcorn while I wait for all those who praised President Obama for staying the course with Secretary Gates to come out now to burn him at the stake.

    January 7, 2014 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. Smitty

    I would think The GOP should be taken over the Senate after all the bonehead moves by this admin. I don't think that's all that swell. Are there any leaders left in our Government ????

    January 7, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  4. Tony in Maine

    A "good" Republican just disappeared. sad.

    January 7, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  5. Hooper

    Hammer and be damned. She runs, she wins.

    January 7, 2014 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    Gates served his country well. Disagreements are expected on difficult issues and decisons. His point of view is welcomed, although taking it face value as truth would be a mistake.

    January 7, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  7. sammy750

    Gates is just another Traitor that worked in the US Government. He, like many Republicans, are TRAITORS to the people. M. Rubio is a big TRAITor to the people of FL> Rubio has been single-handedly blocking Thomas for months, despite recommending him to Obama in 2012 as a nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Rubio indicated in September he would not submit his "blue slip" to the Senate Judiciary Committee - a courtesy, but not a hard rule, honored in the committee that allows a home-state senator to advance or hold up a nominee. Florida's other senator, Bill Nelson (D), submitted his blue slip months ago.

    January 7, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    GOP is gone to dogs for at least fifty years. Awareness in USA is so rampant.

    January 7, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  9. Future

    Is Anyone surprised at deceit from the Clinton's or the Obama administration? They have taken it to another level..At least Bush was a truthful president.

    January 7, 2014 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. Name

    Republicans always talk about debts but they want war that is not paying for

    January 7, 2014 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  11. justanotherconservative

    Let the character assassinations begin. Although, I don't see why it's starting to early – we don't even know if Hillary or whomever is running yet.

    January 7, 2014 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  12. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    This just shows everybody it's just republican BS to try and hurt Hillary Clinton's chances because the GOP has NOTHING to offer the country but BS!!!!!!!

    January 7, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  13. 2020

    Had Biden been the VP for Bush, there weren't be any war, period.

    January 7, 2014 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  14. Steve

    Why not report on the book instead of what the opposing political party thinks about it. What do YOU think about it?

    January 7, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  15. amazing

    This hatchet job by Gates is to sell books and make money. If this was true, why didn't he quit if he held such strong views.

    January 7, 2014 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  16. Name Uche Agonsi

    Any American that professes peace on US foreign policy matters will definitely be seen negatively by war hawks like McCain and Gates. These two scumbags dont ever stop to think on how many lives they have wasted in their life time.

    January 7, 2014 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  17. David

    Gates is just another GOP opportunist who betrayed our president...just to sell another wretched book...Boo.

    January 7, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  18. don in albuquerque

    Still looking for another 15 minutes of fame. The proverbial pimple that just needs to be scratched. And how much did he get paid to write his little "expose"? Very sadly in America money IS the truth. Cheap little man, that takes cheap little shots.

    January 7, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  19. newsreader

    Amazing this backstabing to sell his book. Shame on him. He got enough money these last years. I forgot – he"s a republican. my mistake

    January 7, 2014 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  20. Dan5404

    What else is new? A Republican attacks Obama with personal opinions that are worth as much as anyone else's. Probably had some guidance from Republican strategists trying to dig up anything they can to win in 2016. Ain't gonna happen!

    January 8, 2014 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  21. Catherine

    Hahahahahahahahahahaha Biden a potential Presidential candidate hahahahahahaahahaha.................. deep breath .............. hahahahahahahahahahahaha and so on and so forth

    January 8, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  22. newsreader

    It's scary to think how long gates has been planning this. shame on him. i hope the money the republican party paid him makes him happy because the world sees him as a traitor to our usa. Shame on You Gates

    January 8, 2014 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  23. Chuck

    The Guy is a Saint

    January 8, 2014 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  24. name. willard

    I'm belived that clinton hillary and presdient obama are keep lied story what happened about four amercian at benghinzia

    January 8, 2014 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  25. Dan

    Such a lame way to go out from a Secretary of Defense.... I guess republicans lost their shame a lonnnnnnng time ago.
    This is how Gates says thank you, I meant F.... you to Obama after keeping a republican in a democratic cabinet....... Loser can't even define the poor bloke........

    January 8, 2014 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
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