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. cdub

    Gates was employed in 2006, by Bush, not by Obama. The article just said so...Literally.

    January 8, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  2. The Truth Hurts

    Wow..,. Joe Biden is incompetent? Who knew?

    January 8, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  3. Abbey

    The Democrats need to be punished for this conduct. Let's start with the head hag...Hillary Clinton and the Libya debacle.

    January 8, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. Dave

    The mark of a good leader is to get as many divergent opinions in the room as possible and then set his course of action. That Biden or Clinton or the President weren't always on the same plate is good for the country and speaks of good government.

    The republicans all get in line and spout the same nonsense and want you to believe that it's the correct path (for them). That's not representation as everyone else can't contribute valid opinions.

    January 8, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. The Real Tom Paine


    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.
    Don't hold your breath. Republican's do not follow their own party blindly much less Obama who they disagree with almost 100%. BTW, I think you got the 2014 elections all wrong. The majority of people in the US do not agree with Obama or his leadership. Take you blinders off and look at reality. Want to do right by America? Then vote for the best candidate regardless or party, race, creed, color, or gender. Open your mind and also your eyes. If not, I'm sure the DR will welcome you home with open arms. think about this for a second, how many people will really miss you. How many jobs have you created since coming here and how have you benefitted America?
    So, deporatation is the answer for you, if people don't blindly follow you and what you think is the American way? An immigrant is the best success story this country can show, so i thinks DM4O understands this country far better than some worthless little nativist who embraces his fear and not the oportunity this country offers. What have you done to benefit this country? Do you actually build and create things, or do you just follow whatever new Elmer Gantry-type FOX news sees fit to fling at you?

    January 8, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. Fools in the Whitehouse

    Exposed for the incompetent frauds they obviously are!

    January 8, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Larry L

    @Fair is Fair

    Marie MD

    "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!"
    It was started by Al Queda in 9/11. Afghanistan was attacked because they provided safe haven to Al Queda and allowed terrorists to train there. The primary goal of the war was NOT to capture or kill OBL, but rather to eliminate AQ'a ability to continue their practices. On countless occasions, Obama referred to it as "the good war", and also increased troop levels there. Those are facts, Sweetheart. Don't let them get in your way.
    You're revising history again by leaving out the real facts. Bush pulled out of Afghanistan so he could go to Iraq and fight a war to impress his Daddy. Over 4,500 Service-Members died in that effort but Halliburton did well... He had already allowed Bin laden to get away and declared his "new" objective. While he wasted his time in one of the few countries that didn't play a role in 9/11, the Taliban regrouped and created a training ground for Al Queda and further oppressing the Afghani people. At that point we re-engaged in Afghanistan while wrapping up Bush's War. Those are the facts "Sweetheart". I was there.

    January 8, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. fuzzback

    Seems like if we're going to be the world's cop we should also be selling to the world. Doesn't seem like we're doing that. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

    January 8, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Evergreen

    Senators Obama and Clinton were against the surge in Iraq. Many people were. We were told would be treated as liberators. Instead they were in the middle of a struggle for power between Shiites and Sunis. Lets not forget the photos of the hooded figure at the Abu Ghraib prison or the photo of the female soldier with a pile of naked iraqi prisoners.

    January 8, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Tom Paine: "so i thinks DM4O understands this country far better than some worthless little nativist who embraces his fear and not the oportunity this country offers."

    Thank you. My post in defense of DM4O didn't get posted.

    January 8, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. columbus

    With mid term elections looking, this memoir just provides more fodder for party politicians to distract themselves from their duties to their country. In other words, the do nothing congress will continue to do so.

    January 8, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. ABCD

    So let me see if I got the themes of this book right . . .

    1) The Clintons will say or do anything to further their own political fortunes;
    2) Joe Biden is basically wrong about everything.

    In other news, it is cold in January, the Pope is Catholic and water is wet. (Or college jocks are not smart - the ACTUAL front page story of CNN today - no sarcasm!)

    January 8, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    -The Truth Hurts

    I see the spin patrol is out in force today. It will be interesting to see if this has legs.
    This, coming from someone who yesterday claimed he voted for the President twice?

    January 8, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. rs

    The GOP is trying to spin one author's points (a well credited author at that) to create another "nontroversy" for the President and to deflect away criticisms from their massively unpopular wasr. Funny then at the same time that the twins (McCain and Graham) are out there trying to gin up support for the U.S. to maintain at least a force of 12,000 U.S. service men and women in Afghanistan for "missions (even though that isn't what the Afghans want)", and to actually go back into Iraq to "stabilize" the re-erupting civil war our invasion touched off in the first place.

    Insanity piled upon iinsanity.

    I think the sooner we get out of tthe dealings in the Middle East the better. Shut down the two $2 trillion dollar mistakes, take care of our soldiers and move on. The GOP wants a budget cut? There's a whopper for them.

    January 8, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. tony

    Nothing 2 worry about w/retirement except enough MONEY 2 enjoy it. WHY didn't he speak out for so long while in office as part of his responsibilities?! I smell cowardice on duty representing his country. Did he serve in the military 2 begin with?!! Two sides 2 every story, right? Time to sell books for retirement, right?!!!

    January 8, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. Rone

    How can anyone think that Afghanistan is not Obama's war?

    Nov 21, 2008 – This is "the right battlefield," Obama has said. The war in Afghanistan "has to be won."

    January 8, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Tom Paine

    Thank you for your reply to: The Real Tom Paine -hkirwin . I also tried to respond.

    January 8, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. rs

    Then vote for the best candidate regardless or party, race, creed, color, or gender. Open your mind and also your eyes.
    That is precisely what 54% of Americans did in 2012- and no amount of GOP lies about the duly elected current President of the United States will change that in 2016.

    January 8, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  19. rs


    The Democrats need to be punished for this conduct. Let's start with the head hag...Hillary Clinton and the Libya debacle.
    What debacle? Pay attention, everything the GOP has said about Beghazi has blown up in their faces as bald-faced lies!

    January 8, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. puppynut5

    Sorry, don't buy any of this BS... So tired of all these lies & false controversies. So excited for the day when we can get a straight story instead of a story twisted by politics. I don't believe anything the Dem's say and especially don't believe a sound the Repubs make.

    January 8, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. louenglish

    "Hammer" ? Like in unjustified physical assault? What is it called when the Dems use revelations for political ends? Inquire, Investigate, Followup, Bring to light?? When is this suck up press going to get a backbone?

    January 8, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  22. Sheila

    this is all in the planning stages, when the republicans will blow the dems to smithereens, come November, and I for one, cannot wait. The republicans will use the excerpts in the new book, to slam the dems so bad they will feel like they are in the frying pan

    January 8, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Sharky

    I think it's funny listening to a bunch of politicians argue about how to fight a war.

    January 8, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Bob Penn

    Everyone should read “Culture of Corruption, Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies” by Michelle Malkin (ISBN 978-1-59698-109-6). It is a New York Times best seller. It includes Joe Biden and the Clintons. You should also read “The Case Against Barack Obama, The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate” by David Freddoso (ISBN 978-1-59698-566-7) political reporter for National Review Online.

    January 8, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. EvanAZ

    History is not on Gates side, in terms of counter terrorism success , the Obama administration has been the most successful in history, everyone lost faith in the war in Afghanistan not just Obama, and as history has shown the surge in Iraq did not secure that nation but rather just prolonged the inevitable continuation of sectarian violence, Gates says it was Obama that was wrong on each of these issues...no it was you Gates who was wrong on each of these issues

    January 8, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
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