January 12th, 2014
01:38 PM ET
8 years ago

Gates defends controversial book

(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.

Bad timing?

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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soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. captcaps

    Shame On Gates you are a typical Republican Go Figure That......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    January 12, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. sick of republican phonies

    Of Bush jr., he says" "It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it..."
    Well, since he was responsible for the deaths of 5,000 or so soldiers, fighting for a lie in Iraq, that was the least he could do.

    January 12, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. Wes


    It's truly a shame that he ended up being a traitor to his own country.
    I agree. The uhbama should be impeached immediately.

    January 12, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. luke,az

    This guy has no class.

    January 12, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  5. texasnotea

    He is a republican from Texas, what else did you expect? He didn't get his way so he decided to whine in public for profit. Like all republicans, he thinks his way is the only way and there is no room for anybody elses opinion.

    January 12, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  6. Blinded by the republican lies

    Karma is what happened when he fell and fractured his vertebrae...He could have waited..But too much in a rush to cash in on his memoires.

    January 12, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Kathy, Glendale, AZ

    I'll be voting Democratic no matter what the "wind blowing" says. -– I DO NOT want ANY of our troops back in that godforsaken area, which is exactly what the GOP will do, if elected back into the presidency.

    January 12, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Mike

    Well, nobody's going to confide in Gates again any time soon . . .

    January 12, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  9. Dutch

    Did any of the posters here actually read the book, or are we just quoting the article?
    Regardless, please keep in mind that it's just one man's opinion. Just because he says you or I are wrong doesn't make it so.

    January 12, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. chris

    Gates worked for the people of this country not the president. He waited out of respect for the presidential elections to be over before publishing but he feels the country needs to hear this and we do. It does not take a rocket scientist to see he is telling the truth.

    January 12, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Tom

    Does the book say anything at all about all of the misinformation which the Bush Administration and Gates himself gave in support of entering the war in Iraq? How about how the entire military machine under which Gates was the top leader insisted that there were WMD, which we never found? Of course not, lets just talk about a President who was questioning if a decision was the best decision, not question a Preseident who unloaded false information on an emotionally traumatized public after the 911 attacks. He's a Republican and the book dies exactly what you would expect it to. He is just like all other public figures, in it for himself and his party.

    January 12, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  12. Andulamb

    The whole point of Freedom of Speech is to give people a right to criticize the government - the CURRENT government. I'm so tired of all the reasons people come up with for why others shouldn't speak. And it always boils down to not liking what is being said. Don't like what someone says? Then say something different. But don't try to deny someone's right to speak. Do you believe in your country's freedoms, or don't you?

    January 12, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. PrettyFingFunny

    Funny how these guys are so upset by the president, but they never have the_balls to quit. they wait till they get their pension and then write a tell all book. Pretty sorry.

    January 12, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  14. northerstar

    Gates believes that Biden was wrong on every major issue & Obama believes Biden is one of the Greatest Statesman of His Time. It is hard to believe Gates & Obama lasted together as long as they did given their differences of what Biden's value was/is (if that is an example of how they see the world).

    January 12, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. ditdahdit

    Gates is a child of the neo-con War Machine. Being competent enough at Defense for Obama to keep him on doesn't change his 'war = money' ideology.

    January 12, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. Scott

    Gates is a stand up guy with respect from every corner. Democrats in particular should just let the air leak out of the story because every time they weigh in they only dig the hole that they're in a little deeper.

    Known liars cannot put off testimony from Robert Gates.

    January 12, 2014 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. Jules

    Personally, I am ok with having a president that is not passionate about putting American lives in danger and blowing up a lot of people. I'm okay with that.

    January 12, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  18. Jules

    I'll read the book because I am sure that it is not as critical as the GOP would like us to think. Gates didn't agree with the president a couple of times – ok – so what. Generals want more fighting – that's why the founders of this country did not put the military in charge of going to war.

    January 12, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. Thomas

    "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."

    Translation – Bush/Cheney/Gates were bloodthirsty warmongers and Obama isn't.

    January 12, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  20. Ben

    Why this headline. Why when Gates blows a whistle on the administration is he asked to "defend" his book. Why isn't the administration asked to defend against these accusatio0ns???

    January 12, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. john brown

    The Truth will set us free. I thought it was all coming from Snowden, but it looks like Gates is willing to share some , too.

    January 12, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  22. Come On CNN

    Note how CNN picked up on the Hillary making a good president..........They left out Gates comment about her opposing the surge because she thought it would hurt her politically in the primaries with Barry..............

    January 12, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  23. Joe Clarke

    Gates is an example of a hypocrite !!! Republicans lie when they open their mouths. How can you defend Bush after all of his lies regarding Iraq? SHAME ON GATES–NO INTEGRITY !!!!!

    January 12, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  24. king

    i wondered why gates wanted obama to spend more money on Afghanistan, i thought the repubs was running around whipping and yelling about the deficit. bin ladin did say that the only way to beat america was to ruin their budget, and he succeeded 10 folds. how the hell can you fight physically against a belief or an idea. we went into two wars fighting a way of life that been going on for thousand of years. if we didn't intend to kill every man, woman and child, we had already lost, because the next generation will have that same idea, or belief and they will fight just as their fathers did. the repub starting a never ending war was doomed from the beginning, Obama saw this and he wanted to get out and secure our country by looking into every one phone data. this is the only way to fight a war of belief and culture, you cut and secure. leave it up to the repubs they would have damaged our budget beyond recognition fighting a war that wouldl last centuries.

    January 12, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. John

    By the way, whose administration and whose party cuts back on military benefits?

    January 12, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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