Book Review: Troutmouth Bob Feels Robert Gates’ Pain

So Robert Gates has a book to sell, and the WaPo‘s favorite Beltway lifer tells us in an advance review that it further confirms Woodward’s fears that the skinny dude in the Oval Office might just be in over his head:

In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”…

As a candidate, Obama had made plain his opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion while embracing the Afghanistan war as a necessary response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, requiring even more military resources to succeed. In Gates’s highly emotional account, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that is providing him options. Their different worldviews produced a rift that, at least for Gates, became personally wounding and impossible to repair….

Gates writes about Obama with an ambivalence that he does not resolve, praising him as “a man of personal integrity” even as he faults his leadership. Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Joe Biden and many of Obama’s top aides…

Gates is 70, nearly 20 years older than Obama. He has worked for every president going back to Richard Nixon, with the exception of Bill Clinton. Throughout his government career, he was known for his bipartisan detachment, the consummate team player. “Duty” is likely to provide ammunition for those who believe it is risky for a president to fill such a key Cabinet post with a holdover from the opposition party.

He writes, “I have tried to be fair in describing actions and motivations of others.” He seems well aware that Obama and his aides will not see it that way…

“All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.” …

Gonna be interesting to see how other readers regard Gates’ memoir, but this review does nothing to challenge the long-standing suspicion Bob Woodward has been working for the Permanent Security State since his Navy days.

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67 replies
  1. 1
    Glocksman says:

    I’d actually care about what insights his former partner Carl Bernstein had WRT the book, but ‘Fluffer’ Woodward?

    No thanks.

  2. 2
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Tell me again why Obama had to appoint Republican Gates?

  3. 3
    EconWatcher says:

    I’m open to arguments that Obama hasn’t handled Afghanistan well, but if they don’t acknowledge that the place is probably unfixable anyway, they won’t have much credibility. It will be interesting to see if Gates provides fair context in his book. I’m sure Woodward wouldn’t include that kind of context in his review.

  4. 4
    cokane says:

    I read those sentences and develop more appreciation for Obama, frankly.

  5. 5
    Belafon says:

    So, he wanted to get out of Afghanistan, and still managed to kill bin Laden. I’ll take that.

  6. 6
    Hill Dweller says:

    It would be nice if the Village actually points out the surge in Afghanistan accomplished next to nothing; and the minute we leave the Taliban will take over the country. PO was right to be skeptical. Hell, I hope they pull everyone out of there by the end of the year.

  7. 7
    blueskies says:

    This, along with the Republican senators recently visiting the ME to openly undermine our foreign policy while Kerry was still there, reminds me that Republicans are 100% consistent in being 100% hypocrital.

    100%

  8. 8
    KG says:

    @EconWatcher: not fixable? what are you talking about? all things are fixable with a giant empire and a few bombers… having a nuclear arsenal also helps, in theory.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    I read some extracts and summaries on the intertubes this morning, and my impression is that Gate’s judgment is bizarre, unless the book is aimed at making him some coin as a bland centrist TV talking head.

    Lots of dissing Obama, Biden and HRC, and he was just so appalled once he almost quit, but gosh darn it, so many decisions turned out to be pretty dang good, cause in the end, they listened to ol’ Bob, and compromise. I look forward to his manly deicderer drone on MTP and and FTN, and whatever the other show’s names are.

    Edit: And Grandpa Wargrums is getting on in years, and they need a replacement sound man in foreign policy. Thought not sure Gates will be war mongery enough. But he’ll do in a pinch. Maybe Wargrump’s unique role in useless talkingheadery cannot be replaced, and they will need a serious sound judgment person and a warhawk person. Only Wargrumps can combine both into one old package.

  10. 10
    Tone In DC says:

    Bob “I love Georgetown” Woodward never writes anything praising a non-g00per. That’s just how he rolls.

    I am not surprised at Gates. He’s used to having his own way, and getting nothing but “yes” from the occupants of said oval-shaped office. How dare someone, especially That One, show any skepticism, or anything similar anywhere around His Gatesness. You think Dubya told Gates anything other than yes? Or Reagan, or Bush I?

    For US forces, Afghanistan should have been over before 2011. It’s sad that things have dragged out this long.

  11. 11

    After being in proximity of Reagan and both Bushes, I would take any criticism of his with a grain of CIA cocaine. I wrote that Snowden seemed from the start to be a psyop directed at Obama, so this old hand of the military-industrial complex is just part of the chorus. The CIA has been wedded to the House of Saud since Langley was just a twinkle in the Dulles’ eyes, and now that there are fractures in the alliance (Obama not having been dragged into Syria to provide air support for al Qaeda, then anti-American Saudi rhetoric, and now limited leakage from this side of the ocean around their role in 9/11) the old boys network can’t be too happy.

    MSM has a greater stake in CIA myths than they do in Obama. I would suggest no rides with the presidential limo’s top off.

  12. 12
    mai naem says:

    I heard this on XM earlier. PO distrusted the military leaders? Smart man. The same military which fucked over LBJ and JFK? The same military people who get out and become part of the military industrial complex grifterati? Sheet, I say Obama is a mensa level genius. And, BTW, this wasn’t even one of the reasons that I did not want PO to appoint a Republican as SOD. How about if we actually start appointing Dems and make Dems look more “muscular.”

  13. 13
    Corner Stone says:

    @mai naem:

    And, BTW, this wasn’t even one of the reasons that I did not want PO to appoint a Republican as SOD. How about if we actually start appointing Dems and make Dems look more “muscular.”

    Republicans are the only ones who have the credibility to be a SecDef.

  14. 14
    Corner Stone says:

    @Tone In DC:

    You think Dubya told Gates anything other than yes? Or Reagan, or Bush I?

    This doesn’t even make any sense.
    Gates is ripping Obama because he didn’t get some outcome he wanted from the black man?

  15. 15
    Corner Stone says:

    Thank goodness we now have SecDef Hagel in place, as he is the only person capable of following the law and implementing the stated policy of the president.

  16. 16
    KG says:

    @mai naem: the military is a hammer, and when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. one would hope that someone would recognize that not everything is a nail. one would also figure that the hammer would be upset that everything is not a nail… but that’s why there is a saying about being as dumb as a bag of hammers.

  17. 17

    I was half-expecting Gates to be named the GOP standard-bearer in 2012 because of the general suckitude of the cast of characters running in that cycle, and since the GOP are pretty much running dogs for the CIA and have already had a head of the Agency and his spawn in the White House and no one in the MSM seems to have noticed this relationship, I thought they’d try to slip another one into the White House. Having blood on your hands translates to charisma on that side of the aisle.

  18. 18

    What’s ol’ Gatesy doing these days? He’s in a consulting firm with Stephen Hadley and Condi Rice and is the President Elect of the Boy Scouts.

  19. 19
    srv says:

    Gates

    So the non-partisan great guy, best guy for the jerb.. now BURN HIM!

    @EconWatcher:

    but if they don’t acknowledge that the place is probably unfixable anyway, they won’t have much credibility

    Uh, so all the DFH’s that opposed the Obama & McChrystal Surge in Afghanistan don’t have any credibility because they realized it was an unfixable clusterfuck first.

    You’re only a serious person if you think another “Decent Interval” strategery was respectable.

  20. 20
    MomSense says:

    He had reason to distrust the military leaders.

  21. 21
    different-church-lady says:

    For [Obama], it’s all about getting out.”

    Horrors! What a miserable failure that man is. Real presidents aren’t interested in ending wars.

  22. 22
    muddy says:

    @different-church-lady: “Can’t pull out, wouldn’t be manly.”

  23. 23
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    So in 2010 Obama felt that a war (America’s longest) launched in 2001, in the graveyard of empires, and relegated to the back burner from 2003 (if not earlier) to 2009, might not be going well? That is shocking news.

  24. 24
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Also, too, the headline I’ve seen most on this is that Gates hates Biden, who has been wrong about every foreign policy decision of the last forty years. Others have pointed out that Gates and Biden were on the same side against ground troops in Libya. I think that was the right decision. And I absolutely think Biden was on the wrong side of the Iraq debate. Was Gates?

  25. 25
    James E. Powell says:

    And, of course, you all know who else didn’t trust his military advisers, right?

  26. 26
    Reasonable 4ce says:

    I’m glad the DC Press Corpse has a new chew toy.

  27. 27
    JPL says:

    The White House released a statement supporting Joe and wishing Gates well on the book circuit.

  28. 28
    Elizabelle says:

    Battling headlines:

    NY Times: Obama Lost Faith in Afghan Strategy, Book Asserts.

    (sounds reasonable; who didn’t?)

    Troutmouth’s WaPost: In Memoir, Gates issues harsh Obama critique

    (Because, because — if it isn’t harsh, how can our permanent Republican overclass take it seriously? Must not offend plugged in GOP elite …)

    Haven’t read either story ….

  29. 29
    Mike in NC says:

    Can we call this GatesGate?

  30. 30
    West of the Rockies says:

    I actually thought Bob Woodward was Troutmouth Bob… he does have a very, uh, distinctive mouth. And I think of Brit Hume as Droopy Dog.

  31. 31
    StringOnAStick says:

    Keep whippin’ it Gates; the majority of US citizens (remember them?) have wanted us out of Afghanistan for a long, long time. I’m sure we’ll all change our minds on this in the face of your published tantrum.

  32. 32
    JustRuss says:

    suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials

    Gee, now why could that be? The fact that we were mired in two wars for years? Or because the Pentagon was paying “retired” generals to serve as “experts”/propaganda shills to various news orgs during the Iraq war run-up?

  33. 33
    feebog says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    So in 2010 Obama felt that a war (America’s longest) launched in 2001, in the graveyard of empires, and relegated to the back burner from 2003 (if not earlier) to 2009, might not be going well? That is shocking news.

    Maybe Gates should blame the guy who was in charge during the much of the Bush Administration. That would be a guy name Robert Gates. Seriously, the fact that he convinced Obama to go with the surge, and the fact that the surge produced zilch should be enough to relegate this asshole to the dustbin of history.

  34. 34
    AnonPhenom says:

    “All too early in the [Obama] administration,” he writes, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials”

    Not how I remember it.
    Or how Michael Hastings rembered McChrystal & Company remembering it.
    At a minimum any suspicion, distrust and/or contempt was mutual.

  35. 35
    Aji says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Oh, well, then, that explains it – the book as written was no doubt required under his lucrative new wingnut welfare contract.

  36. 36
    Cervantes says:

    @Mike in NC: Sure, but GatesGateGate is already taken.

  37. 37
    patrick II says:

    We are losing the war in Afghanistan because Obama did not want to win badly enough. That makes all of the difference. Even though he gave into Petreus plan and gave them years and troops, it wasn’t enough and he hurt the general’s feelings while doing so. So the war is lost, not because of the nature of Afghanistan or its history of resistance, but because Obama didn’t believe with his whole heart and didn’t clap. That is also why Tinkerbell is dead.

  38. 38
    Roger Moore says:

    @feebog:

    Seriously, the fact that he convinced Obama to go with the surge, and the fact that the surge produced zilch should be enough to relegate this asshole to the dustbin of history.

    The problem was Obama’s lack of confidence. If he had only been steadfast and truly believed that the surge would work, everything would have been fine. It was his lack of confidence that ruined everything, not the utter hopelessness of the situation.

  39. 39
    stinger says:

    @blueskies: Agreed. I can, more or less, respect Gates’s publishing a book describing his differences with the Commander in Chief, but why the hell couldn’t he wait until the CiC is out of office? What happened to supporting the CiC in all things during wartime?

  40. 40
    Roger Moore says:

    @stinger:

    What happened to supporting the CiC in all things during wartime?

    *Offer only applies when the President is a Republican.

  41. 41
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Roger Moore: watched Charlie Rose last night with his concerned panel discussing options for Iraq. The concern that we just don’t have leverage there right now because Obama didn’t leave any troops just made me want to retch. Yes, if only we had kept troops there until the Sunnis and Shiites learned to get along. What we really need is leverage.

  42. 42
    J says:

    @patrick II: Exceedingly well said!

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    watched Charlie Rose last night with his concerned panel discussing options for Iraq.

    I like the option for Iraq that Obama gave back to us: stay the fuck away and let them deal with it. Why isn’t the “don’t get involved and let other countries deal with their own problems” option discussed more often?

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @muddy:

    They do it in pr0n films all the time, and I don’t think they’re less manly for it.

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @patrick II:

    Failure to heed the lesson of Triumph of the Will. Gets them every time.

    Clap(per) louder, dammit, you wusses! Clap louder!

  46. 46
    Elie says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Amen

    And sadly, the critics of that strategy have occasionally been on the left…

    Very disappointing…

  47. 47
    Elie says:

    @patrick II:

    Great comment —

    Its all good — the great fakeout..

    Obama truly “gets” their game — and he aint playin..

    He could effing care less about their shit and he has his eye on them. They know that and that is why they hate him so much…

    He don care about their “games, their strategies and positions”

    He protects us in sophisticated ways — he doesn’t blame, scream, point fingers — he just covers us and saves us by absorbing 6 million tons of bullshit from these clowns.

  48. 48
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @StringOnAStick:

    Afghanistan was a mistake from the getgo. Treating terrorism as something to be addressed with a military response is overkill. At best, you use SF/Commando operations for specific targets, i.e. bin Laden, but most of the work is investigative in nature. Not what our military is designed to do.

    But, if you’re a deserting coward or a draft dodging Dark Lord of the Sith, well, whatever helps Haliburton’s bottom line is what you use.

  49. 49

    @Suffern ACE: I saw a part of that show too it was nauseating and so narcissistic too. Neo-con Max Boot seems to think that the world revolves around what US does or does not do. BTW why didn’t Boot enlist if he thought that Iraq was so vital to the US interests. I am sure he was young enough to do so more than 10 years ago.

  50. 50
    El Caganer says:

    @Suffern ACE: Yes, it would have been so much better if he had kept troops there….in violation of the agreement his predecessor had signed with the Iraqi government.

  51. 51
    amk says:

    @Suffern ACE: Did anyone point out that the pull out time table was set by dumbya?

  52. 52
    amk says:

    @El Caganer: beat me to it.

  53. 53
    A Humble Lurker says:

    @Corner Stone:
    ….Or, you know, from a Republican?

  54. 54
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Roger Moore: because we are not big thinkers and therefore aren’t serious. Big strategic thinkers in foreign policy think of empires and domination and how to achieve that. The rest of us go “why would you want that?” And therefore aren’t considered serious thinkers. We think to small to have grand plans. And what could be grander than having the government of Iraq asking us to use our leverage to take care of its Sunni problem for it. Think big!

  55. 55
    Cervantes says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Why isn’t the “don’t get involved and let other countries deal with their own problems” option discussed more often?

    It’s discussed whenever the powers that be do not benefit from the application of US force.

  56. 56
    Corner Stone says:

    @A Humble Lurker: Jeesus but if you don’t get stupider every thread I don’t know what else to bet on.

  57. 57
    RaflW says:

    One presumes that in Gate’s “highly emotional” book, he doesn’t bother with much self-reflection as he bashes his way through an admin he’d like to distance himself from so as to significantly raise his rubber-chicken speaking fees.

    Oh, and as for Bob? Assholes who suckle at the teat of Our Failed Media Experiment really, really should Just Shut the Fuck Up.

  58. 58
    Cacti says:

    Iran-Contra crook Robert Gates is known for his bipartisan detachment?

    Fucking shoot me.

  59. 59
    RaflW says:

    @stinger:

    What happened to supporting the CiC in all things during wartime?

    Haha. Only counts when a GOPer is Preznit. Same with “deficits don’t matter.” Or any number of other examples.

    Republican officials have contempt at their core. That’s the only real rule. Contempt for the governed. Certainly contempt for voters and citizens who are poor or happen to be other-than-white. Contempt for people silly enough to be consistent in their values and goals. Heck, the have contempt for their donors, even.

    So why should a thing like “supporting the CiC during wartime” are, you might say, not currently operable.

  60. 60
    Jay C says:

    Two things struck me about former Sec’y Gates’ well-publicized rant: first: it seemed to be a bit hypocritical (to say the least) for him to gripe about President Obama not “heeding” advice from “senior military” – One has to wonder what he thought of President Bush’s even-more-obvious dismissal of military advice when it didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear about Iraq (and dismissal of personnel, as well).

    Secondly: what’s his hardon about Joe Biden? “Wrong on everything for forty years” is kind of a pretty harsh brush-off: sounds more like some sort of personal grudge…..

  61. 61
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Oh, I agree that Afghanistan was a mistake from the beginning, and wrote lots of letters to that effect; I bet I’m on some list somewhere because of it. The response to 9-11 should have always been treated as a criminal/policing issue, not a military one; instead we gave Bin Laden every dumbass response he expected of us and that the Bush cabal was more than willing to deliver. Now, how about that Haliburton stock, quite the winner, eh?

  62. 62
    different-church-lady says:

    @StringOnAStick:

    I bet I’m on some list somewhere because of it.

    What? You haven’t been drone killed yet? This administration is getting soft…

  63. 63
    mclaren says:

    Same-old same-old. An insufficiently bloodthirsty Killer in Chief gets slammed by the right. What else is new?

    If Obama had given a speech explaining that he wanted to drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Afghanistan, the conservatives would be giving him a standing ovation.

    America has now morphed into the Roman empire. Only cruelty in a leader impresses the populace. The mark of the greatness of a leader? How many innocents he can crucify.

  64. 64
    Chocko Rocko says:

    Just imagine how scathing Gates’ criticism would be if he had not stayed on as Defense Secretary. Credit the Obama team for having the foresight to use a cabinet secretary from the former administration to blunt the whiny Monday-morning neo-con quarterbacking. And kudos to Gates for having the discipline to keep his mouth shut while in office.

  65. 65
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    So Gates want to point out anyone who’se had success in Afghanistan since Cyrus the Great? Oh yes, we’re Americans so we’re different and no one could have foreseen.

  66. 66
    Dave says:

    Hyperbole much Mclaren? Your comments are true to a point for a portion of the populous but you point out that he is slammed by the right for being insufficiently blood thirsty and then state that this is the entirety of the country. So nuance it’s a thing.

  67. 67
    Barry says:

    @stinger: “What happened to supporting the CiC in all things during wartime? ”

    Only applies to *real* CiC’s, who are always Republican.

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