Gates' Complaints About Biden are Wide of the Mark
by Jules Witcover
The new tell-all memoir of former Secretary of Defense
Instead, Gates writes in "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War" that for much of his more than two years in the Obama cabinet, he silently seethed at what he saw as the president's focus on disowning Bush's war in
A longtime Republican in a Democratic administration, Gates writes that "I believe Obama was right in each of his decisions" on the war in
"All too early in the administration," Gates writes, "suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior
Gates accuses Biden of "poisoning the well" against the advice of military leaders who in
Biden played the house skeptic in the internal debate. He argued in turn that Obama should focus on the original justification for fighting in
Biden was generally cast as the loser in that debate. However, it was his insistence that the American commitment in the war in
For the biography of Biden I wrote subsequently, President Obama was asked what he thought of the conclusion that his vice president had been the loser in the debate. He replied:
"I don't think anyone who was party to the very, very exhaustive discussions we had would say that. Joe was enormously helpful in guiding those discussions. The decision that ultimately emerged was a synthesis of some of the advice he gave me, along with the advice that Secretary Gates and Generals (David) Petraeus and McChrystal offered. I think we arrived at exactly the right answer, and we would not have gotten there as quickly, or at all, without each of their contributions. The vice president played a vital role in that process."
Obama's decision in 2008 to ask the longtime Republican Gates to remain as secretary of defense after his tour as Bush's Pentagon boss was generally seen as an effort to demonstrate some bipartisanship. Obama had pointedly declared his opposition to Bush's invasion of
At the time, Hagel was a member of Obama's
As defense secretary, Hagel has been a strong supporter of the Obama strategy for winding down the Afghan war while being, as Gates was, a stalwart defender of the American military. But the echoes of Gates's now-revealed dissatisfaction with his tenure in the job are another distraction with which Obama must contend.