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. REGinAZ

    They aggressively go on ranting about “lies”, which is literally dishonest itself as their constant efforts have been consistently aimed to deceive. The way you could tell when GWBush was lying was just to check to see if he was moving his lips. They boldly fault and block all efforts with their stubborn and arrogant “my way or no way” gridlock, always protecting Special Interests and “the money’s” interests, their strong supporters and masters, no matter what the costs to the people. With the power, influence and money provided them as “puppets” for “the money”, they constantly seek to use their propaganda machine to con and manipulate, insultingly just taking the majority for granted as “pawns” easy to dupe, use and abuse. The Republican / Tea Party offers the majority, including the total middle-class, nothing but deception as they strive to return to “more of the same”, Bush-Cheney style, which can only result in “more of the same” that cost the majority and the country greatly, while only the very wealthy always gain. Their deception is the real “lie” the majority must reject as today’s GOP has become owned and controlled by “the money” and completely incapable of honestly and responsibly governing for the people.

    January 8, 2014 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  2. Mike Buck

    Remind me again of why we were in Iraq to begin with? Oh that's right...we were liberators seeking weapons of mass destruction. Or was it oil? How quickly we forget. Remind me again as to why we needed the "surge"? Oh that's right to stop a civil war. Gates...what a Wanker!

    January 8, 2014 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  3. Dr Tod Policandriotes

    It is a shame that we have people in power that willfully and purposely stab people in the back. These people are not role models in my opinion. It is also a shame that we have so few in power that do not do all they can to make life better for everyone and act selflessly for the good of OUR country like the soldiers do when they give their lives. I truly believe that holding a powerful position in our government should be reserved only for those that will act selflessly for the people of this country. Anything less is a disgrace and a criminal offense to me. We can do much better than we have done for many decades now. We need to get the influence of money out of OUR government and those that continue to accept money for favors are committing treason against the people of this great country.

    January 8, 2014 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  4. Aydiin

    Oh my God, politicians lie to the general public for their own gain? Who could have known...

    January 8, 2014 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  5. Shills

    I think Gates is hardly saying anything he really needs to say to clear himself of awful leadership regarding these 'wars' from all administrations. Wars where the American people get NOTHING out of except massive IOU's of Govt. and less jobs in America.

    January 8, 2014 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  6. Dina Levine

    I believe the book was not against Hillary. It said Hillary was not happy with what was going on either.

    January 8, 2014 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  7. Marie MD

    No good deed goes unpunished. Can the WH take back that medal of freedom (or whatever he was given) for being another snowden?
    The Afghan war is NOT our President's war. That war was started by the shrub #43 to look for and capture or kill bin laden. He couldn't eve get that right!
    As far as the old senile man from AZ, please STFU! You gave us the most hated dumb woman in the world and ifyou had followed orders you would not have been a POW in Vietnam. We don't need to or care to listen to your take on anything that has to do with intelligence or what to do when, how and why!

    January 8, 2014 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  8. croaton999

    "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," DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said, adding "that’s what people will remember."

    They thought wrong. 9/11/12 in Benghazi will be burned into our history books as a colossal failure of leadership.

    January 8, 2014 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  9. Pk duster

    Thank god for biden and hillary never trusted gates gates would have thousands more soilders killed gates a war monger

    January 8, 2014 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  10. hkirwin

    No news here. if anyone didn't know this already they are brain dead or a minion.

    January 8, 2014 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  11. rosa, b'ham al

    Politics as usual. I doubt this book will change any minds about anything. The purpose of the book is to make money and stir the pot. Gates is a Republican after all.

    January 8, 2014 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  12. sifto

    why blame Republicans?–Gates was employed by Obama...

    January 8, 2014 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  13. Just me

    Ok I concede, Obama is the most disrespected President ever. It was over for him the minute he announced that he was running for the Potus.

    January 8, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  14. Jered

    Sour grapes + a political agenda = undignified failure.

    January 8, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Interestingly left out of this CNN's story is Gate's high praise of President's Obama decision to go after bin laden, proclaiming it to be one of the most courageous decisions that he's ever witnessed.
    Thank goodness for the freedom to access more than one news source.

    January 8, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  16. Tampa Tim

    I am not sure Woodward even read the book. It can be conceded vaguely that the GOP has nothing to run on, and will lose in 2016.

    January 8, 2014 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  17. Dean

    No one should be suprised by the information in Gates' book. Obama's arrogance has been on display since he took the oath of office. Not only was he unqualified to be president based on his (lack of) experience, he did not have the character required for the job. It pains me to say that Hillary would have made a much better president. However, her actions as Secretary of State have proven otherwise. There's only one way to bring competence and intelligence back to the White House...vote GOP.

    Haters on 3, 2, 1...

    January 8, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It is a shame that we have people in power that willfully and purposely stab people in the back. These people are not role models in my opinion. It is also a shame that we have so few in power that do not do all they can to make life better for everyone and act selflessly for the good of OUR country like the soldiers do when they give their lives. I truly believe that holding a powerful position in our government should be reserved only for those that will act selflessly for the people of this country. Anything less is a disgrace and a criminal offense to me.
    Thank you for giving voice to my very sentiments.
    Well expressed.

    January 8, 2014 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  19. georgex9

    Gates complained the President Obama seemed more interested in getting out of the war in Afghanistan than he was in taking the advice of military leaders. For this I applaud the president. He must have been under much pressure to continue the war there.

    January 8, 2014 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    My opinion of Gates aside, after all he served under THIS President and I think he served well, Republicans should flip the script on all of us and they should do so post haste and well before the 2014 elections. Specifically they should start working with THIS President in ways that the entire country will see and notice. That would go a long way in making those who have a propensity towards myopia and amnesia forget their treatment of THIS President in the past 5 plus years. Additionally they should stop predictably backstabbing and slamming folks across the aisle.
    Be bold GOP.
    Make us forget that you've allowed your sense of civic duty to be bought off for the personal and political reasons of those that were elected to represent the very people they have been consistently and increasingly throwing under the bus for decades now: U.S. voters.

    January 8, 2014 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  21. Vader

    Let's see...

    A Republican Sec'y of Defense being critical of a Democrat President and Sec'y of State....

    Who'da thunk it?

    January 8, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  22. clearvoice

    So we know Obama is a liar, we know Hillary is a liar and Biden is one french fry short of a Big Mac.
    Thank you Mr Gates for pointing out what America already knows.

    January 8, 2014 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  23. 2Km N of GZero

    Great! At least ignoramuses like Rush will have an easier time spelling "Gates" than "Benghazi"

    January 8, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. TracyIndependent

    Don't need a book to tell us how bad our leadership has been for the last 8 years.... yes Bush's last couple were horrible too. Obama had no experience and should not have been considered, too late now.... 3 more years and hopefully we get a leader, with morals, strength and honesty (if that's possible in Washington).

    January 8, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. king

    i guest gates is looking for a job on one of the right winged smear machine, i mean because he is now out of a job. what do you expect from a republican, of course he is going to trash the dems so that Jim demint hires him over their at heritage. all these warmongers who like to defeat America by stripping us dry of our cash, are the same ones that will slam the dems for spending too much.

    January 8, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
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