White House Calls 'Allies' to Defend Obama from Gates Memoir
Tuesday, January 7, 2014 09:01 PM
By: Greg Richter and Cathy Burke
A worried White House was reportedly huddled Tuesday night to figure out a defense strategy against the searing criticism in a memoir by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — as one ex-official called the takedown "disappointing."
CNN reported the White House was contacting "allies" to defend against Gates' claims in "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," including that President Obama had lost faith in his own Afghanistan policy.
"I thought the President was a close ally of Gates," CNN quoted one former White House official saying. "It's disappointing, because if Gates had issues you would've expected him to raise them. When I spoke to Gates about the president he was always effusive."
CNN reported National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama "deeply appreciates Gates' service" and is open to differing points of view from his national security team.
"Deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the President has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year," she said.
Hayden also defended Vice President Joe Biden, who was ripped in the book, praising him as "one of the leading statesmen of his time."
One U.S. military official told CNN if Gates was so upset at the president and his staff, he had an obligation to resign, especially since Gates signed orders sending troops to war.
But the conservative online site Town Hall noted Gates "surely knows that his candid appraisals will be met with a barrage of furious calumny from Democratic loyalists," saying his account "confirms several of conservatives' worst suspicions about Obama's leadership style and the White House's hyper-partisan modus operandi."
Town Hall also pointed out the book may have been more useful to voters if released prior to the election, but "on the other hand, the timing of this release makes it harder for Democrats to excoriate Gates as a politically-motivated hatchet man."
The site decried one alleged smear attempt from Washington Post blogger Max Fisher, who described how Gates "performed on the single most important ... [foreign policy and national security issue] he ever confronted: ending the Cold War," advising then-President Reagan in 1985 not to trust Mikhail Gorbachev — advice Reagan ultimately discounted.
"He was, quite simply, dead wrong," Fisher said of Gates.
Twitter also lit up with speculation on the book's fallout.
"Given what Gates thought of Obama's false posturing on the war in Afghanistan, did he not have a duty to reveal this in 2012? Discuss," tweeted conservative Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey.
On a Fox News Channel "Special Report," columnist Charles Krauthammer said the problem isn't that Obama made mistakes, but that he ordered military action that he didn't truly believe in.
"Bush made horrible mistakes in Iraq. Reagan made a terrible mistake in Lebanon. Lincoln made years of mistakes until he found his general," Krauthammer said.
"But if you order a mission and your heart isn't in the mission, it's a question of conscience."
On CNN's "Crossfire," former White House adviser Van Jones complained: "President Obama, in my view, put a Republican in his cabinet, and the guy doesn't so much as get out the door before he starts working on this tell-all, hyper-emotional memoir."
Jones said it was "this kind of backstabbing" against a sitting president that makes it impossible for the two parties to work together.
But co-host Newt Gingrich shot back: "Aren't you at least a little worried about what he wrote as opposed to how much you dislike that he wrote it?"