Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ memoir won’t be released for another week, but it’s already being aired out as a partisan football. As Anne Laurie pointed out yesterday, Bob Woodward mines the book for evidence of the naive “Obambi” persona he projects onto the president (in contrast the the wily, all-knowing veteran Woodward imagines himself to be).
MSNBC’s Sarah Muller reviews some of the same passages Woodward highlights and provides excerpts that paint a slightly different picture:
“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.” He added, “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for the mission.”
Woodward breathlessly explains that this is “one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat.”
You know what else it is? A near-perfect reflection of the American people’s ambivalence about that benighted war. And subsequent events have proved Obama’s mistrust in both his commander and Karzai as prescient.
For some reason, Woodward didn’t cover this passage, which was highlighted by Muller:
Still, the former defense secretary praises Obama’s high-stakes choice to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound as “one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House.”
Let’s put on our thinking caps: Why would Woodward leave that part out?
Both Woodward and Muller’s accounts highlight Gates’ skewering of Joe Biden. Gates also had this to say about the White House staff in general:
“The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.”
Poor babies. It sounds like Gates grinds an entire arsenal of axes. No surprise there: Gates is a Republican, and that is their nature. In a response to the book, here’s what an administration official said:
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden issued a response to reports about the book, saying that President Obama “deeply appreciates Bob Gates’ service as Secretary of Defense, and his lifetime of service to our country.”
“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 Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year,” the White House response says. “As has always been the case, the President welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies.”
And that’s as clear an illustration of the nature of the Obama administration as you’re likely to find.