Five Takeaways from Gates’ Tell-All Memoir

Five Takeaways from Gates’ Tell-All Memoir

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has dominated talk of This Town in recent days after advance copies of his tell-all memoir made their way to longtime Washington, D.C., reporters.

The 594-page book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” in stores Jan. 14, contains scathing rebukes of Congress and the White House, many of which are aimed at the Obama administration.

Gates, a longtime CIA officer who rose to become the agency’s director, was tapped for the top Pentagon post in late 2006 by then-President George W. Bush, a Republican, to replace Donald Rumsfeld. He was asked to stay on by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and remained in the position until mid-2011.


Gates, 70, is viewed as one of the more effective defense secretaries in the modern era. He oversaw the surge and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, fired officials in the wake of military scandals such as the mistreatment of troops at Walter Reed Medical Center and the Air Force’s mistaken transport of nuclear missiles, and pushed the military to buy billions of dollars worth of blast-resistant trucks to better protect troops while ending production of fifth-generation F-22 fighter jets.

Suffice to say, his decision to publish a memoir — and one that criticizes a sitting president, nonetheless — has made headlines. The following takeaways are based on accounts of the book published by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

1. He has acting chops.

Gates loathed his job but acted the part deftly. In public appearances, he was resolved and unwavering. A 2009 profile of him by the CBS program, “60 Minutes,” reveals a glimpse of his dissatisfaction when he talks about the weighty responsibility that comes with sending troops to war. “It’s not a job anybody should like,” then later emphasized, “No, I don’t enjoy my job.” According to an article by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, he was even more direct in an e-mail he sent to a friend before leaving office: “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”

2. He respects Hillary Clinton.

If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, her campaign wouldn’t have to look far to find a ringing endorsement from Gates. While he criticizes her and Obama for opposing the surge in Iraq on political grounds, Gates describes her as follows: “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,” according to Woodward.

3. He doesn’t care for Joe Biden or “son-of-a-bitch” lawmakers.

Gates accuses Vice President Joe Biden of stirring distrust between administration officials and military leaders. He also writes that Biden is personally likable but “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” according to an article by The New York Times’ Thom Shanker, who was the first to report on the contents of the book.

Gates felt congressional hearings were like a “kangaroo court” and daydreamed about quitting right then and there. “I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else,” according to an essay that was adapted from the book and ran in The Wall Street Journal.

4. He likens Obama to Nixon.

Gates seethed against what he saw as micromanagement of the military by the White House’s National Security Staff and even compared the Obama administration to the Nixon administration. “His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost,” he wrote in his essay. “For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House—and probably cause for dismissal. It became routine under Obama.”

5. He’s independent — and contradictory.

Gates was known for being independent. While he worked in Washington, D.C., his wife, Becky, lived in Washington state. He did his own laundry and cooked his own meals. After getting home and finishing office homework, his nightly routine was to “write condolence letters to the families of the fallen, pour a stiff drink, wolf down a frozen dinner or carry out,” according to Woodward’s account.

Yet despite his criticisms of the current administration, Gates at the end of the book writes that the president “was right” in major policy decisions regarding Afghanistan, according to Woodward. What’s more, he’s opened himself up to be accused of not only being contradictory, but hypocritical. Per Woodward’s colleague Juliet Eilperin, Gates was miffed when Obama ended a meeting by telling his advisers to not distort his words if they planned on writing books that included details about the event.

Gates reportedly wrote, “I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.”

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Gates was the right Secretary of State for a different era; an expansionist U.S. era. President Obama recognized that the U.S. needs to conserve its resources for the war that is to come-to de-nuke Iran, as told with prescience in Amazon Kindle’s thriller-The Bahrain Protocol.

“If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to run for president in 2016, her campaign wouldn’t have to look far to find a ringing endorsement from Gates.”

This dramatically understates the realities of what the memoir actually reveals. A “ringing endorsement”? Only if the ringing is that of the bells of doom.

Gates says that right in front of him in a White House conference room. Hillary Clinton admitted that her opposition to the Iraq “surge” had been driven entirely by her own personal political calculations. The lives of service members in combat were less important to her than her own electoral trajectory.

Even for a guy who once worked for Richard Nixon, Gates found that level of callous cynicism to be utterly shocking. As well he should have.

Really nothing all that revealing about this administration. They hang their politics before everything sign out loud and proud on a daily basis.

Every politician ‘plays’ politics. They’re not CEO’s. Even school presidents or class presidents have to ‘play politics’. That being said, top level national politicians are usually smart, and would never ADMIT to ‘play politics’, so I don’t believe Gates. It’s a hitpiece designed to be used in newspapers and websites during the 2016 elections to discredit Hillary Clinton, along with the big nothing that is Benghazi etc. I don’t understand why appointed top level officials even get to speak this ‘candidly’ after their jobs are over? Even company people have confidentiality agreements, WTF is up with this? He, as his peers, should only be allowed to talk about their OWN accomplishments, failures, actions, not their WORTHLESS ‘opinion’ of others. Because HE isn’t the barometer by which we measure political leaders. Their own actions and consequences are. What, Obama doesn’t like war? REALLY? Is that news? He pulled out of one war and will soon out of another. I am not a anti-war crazy, but I can sense wars that ARE crazy to wage, and wars that SHOULD be waged (very few were in modern times). Drone attacks in the tribal regions are GOOD. Sending in troops is BAD. Iran, if you ask me, is allowed to build 300.000 nukes and shouldn’t be attacked. Not because they wouldn’t deserve it, but because young poor bastard US GI’s shouldn’t be killed in record numbers for what SOME POLITICIANS think is dangerous. Iran would only be the, what, eighth or tenth country with bombs. So what? GTFO of that region and influence the people through trade and diplomacy. America is losing the economic war (vs china and the EU) but is ‘winning’ the military muscle show. So what, this isn’t mister Olympia. Manufacture things and conquer markets, not invade militarily and get kicked out a decade later by reality!

What is Gate’s great contribution to our nation’s defense? Let’s see, he cancelled the F-22 so the F-35 program could continue on to its present glory. He fired soldiers in the middle of a war so we could send more money to defense contractors. Yeah, he’s a helluva guy. No doubt talking out of his ass in that book just like always so he can shovel more money in his bank account just like all the other liars.

I think he was right Obama and Biden are no friends of the US military and it shows how disastrous he is on the war on terror.

The war on terror is such a pathetic term, it MUST have been coined by the dumbest Americans in politics. Pathetic hollow catchphrase, like freedom (freedumb) and liberDy. Sadness. And yes, the war on terror should end yesterday. Only ignorants support it. Go read upon political, military and economic history of the world, and then tell me if you still support it. Ignorance is a cancer that must be annihilated by the root.

If you want people to read it, you have to be a public loony while professing to be a fan of The Bahrain Protocol. Everyone will read it. Maybe urinate on some bushes in front of Congress while screaming at the top of your lungs about it. Think of the sales!

Just another political kiss-and-tell. Gates, as Secretary of Defense, couldn’t reign in the Pentgaon bureaucracy? Give me a break! If he couldn’t do that, he obviously couldn’t manage a war.

Obama didn’t like his own strategy? Obama campaigned on getting us out of the war, and then, once elected, didn’t simply have the guts to tell the Pentagon generals to pull out — no MORE Americans were going to die over a 1,300 year old religious civil war! (Does the U.S. Constitution’s “freedom of religion” extent to other countries?)

But the real lesson learned here is DON’T appoint a Secretary of Defense from the “other” political party, because they’re going to come back and bite you in.…

I doubt Hagel will write a book, and he won’t be retained if a Repub is elected POTUS in 2016.

But the current POTUS should have seen this one coming.

You have to expect this type of article from DoDBuzz. When have they EVER criticized the President?

You didn’t really expect DoDBuzz to criticize the administration or the President did you?

And from a guy who’s longest experience is in the kiss-but-never-tell CIA! But then again, if the not-so-special-forces guys just have to tell how they killed OBL (and make a few bucks), well, why shouldn’t the CIA bosses not make some money too? In one sense, they’re all just mercenaries.

The media in general has acted like someone that has been woken from a sound sleep by this admin. When you tick off the list of issues over the last year it is staggering how buffoonish this admin is. Obama’s handlers wanted him to be President, they just aren’t interested in doing the job.

Heh — when it comes to buffoonery, where this administration is not without its problems, it pales compared to that of its predecessor. That administrations performance was so poor, that the GOP tried to forget it even existed for the first four years of the Obama administration, and tried to stick him with the state of the economy by pretending GWB never even served in office.

Then of course, was the GOP presidential primaries: not ONE candidate mentioned the name of George W Bush even once. Nor, did any candidate seek his endorsement.

Really? I’m no fan of Ws crew but the last time I checked we had some countries in the middle east that still liked us. Now the Saudis are pissed at us along with the GCC, Iraq is a left over but it certainly has gotten worse on O’s watch. Syria was a beacon of politics before his own words. Egypt is a catastrophe. Iran and the nuclear talks are an absolute farce. Libya is bucket of crazy. Arms have swept across the whole of Saharan and Sub Saharan Africa unabated. Afghanistan is a lost cause and Pakistan is falling apart, and Oh yah, the Indians are mad as hell at us.

I just have to ask one question. In this entire 594 page book, did Bob Gates ever question his own judgment or his own opinions ONCE ? Hindsight is always 20/20. I really find the psychological transference so often embodied in Gates’s public pronouncements — both arrogant and repulsive. So I’m not inclined to line the guy’s pockets by purchasing his book and having him tell his sad story — one…more…time.

Gates killed F-22 and tried to kill F/A-18E/F to put all eggs with F-35 basket, what a great job. Put gag order on officers, decided to buy tons of MRAPs right before the drawdawn (manufacturer must be happy). Predicted China will have no stealth fighter before 2020, m´I missing something? IMHO, bureaucrat with no strategig vision, short sighted and full of himself.

Actually a couple of reviewers have said that Gates dings himself in the book.

It’s not transference when you share another person’s quote. My biggest issue with Gates is he was always so darn non confrontational during his time as Sec Def. That same quality made him a darling of this administration which complimented him tremendously.

While Gates comments timing is terrible they are very credible. Beating him up now because he’s telling a couple of things one doesn’t agree with (he’s still very complimentary of Obama and Hillary) is just partisanship. Keep your money. You were going to give it to Hillary anyway.

You assume too much. My main beef about Gates is that he carried the administration’s water, did their dirty work, and provided political cover for actions that are antithetical to this nation’s long-term self interest. What Gates and Clinton did to our budding DIME/PMESII capabilities across the USG is just plain criminal. Nothing is institutionalized and nothing is permanent — but it is shoved into spec ops and intelligence so there is minimal accountability and the “transformative” aspects don’t impact the total force. Gates took all the hard things that Rumsfeld made the department do, and turned the clock back to “business as usual”. Way to implement that smart power, folks.

No doubt he’s trying to get a job with the next Republican administration, should there be one, in the great ping pong battle between indistinguishable parties.

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