Tag Archives: Robert Gates

Gates, hardly a flaming lib, weighs in on ‘case closed’ claim

Robert Gates is no one’s flaming liberal. He’s a lifelong Republican who served as defense secretary for — get set! — Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack H. Obama.

Gates’ bipartisan credentials are, thus, set. So, when he says that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that it’s “case closed” regarding the Russian attack on our electoral system is flat wrong, well, I’m inclined to listen to him.

Gates has suggested that the Trump administration’s response to the Russian attack has been tepid and weak-kneed.

He said this on “Face the Nation” today: “And frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.”

Gates doesn’t believe the Trump team has made those measures a “very high priority.” Gee! Do ya think?

I remained baffled and astonished that Donald Trump would stand next to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and actually disparage U.S. intelligence analyses that Russians interfered in our election in 2016, and then went on to say he didn’t see “why they would.”

The president was wrong. Stubbornly wrong at that.

Robert Gates has served at the pinnacle of power in administrations governed by presidents of both major parties. He is not the partisan hack that clearly fits the description of the Senate majority leader.

This case is not “closed.” Nor is the matter involving the obstruction of justice charge that special counsel Robert Mueller left wide open in his 448-page report.

Case closed? Not . . . even . . . close!

Another key Republican weighs in on Trump

MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r)  Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday Jan. 24, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

Now it is Robert Gates’s turn to join the amen chorus of Republicans concerned about their party’s presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.

Gates, who served as CIA director and defense secretary for President Bush before staying on to serve as defense boss for President Obama, said that Trump is “beyond repair.” He said Trump has no understanding of the differences between negotiating with foreign government leaders and those with whom he has business dealings.


“Mr. Trump is also willfully ignorant about the rest of the world, about our military and its capabilities, and about government itself. He disdains expertise and experience while touting his own—such as his claim that he knows more about ISIS than America’s generals,” Gates wrote in op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal. “He has no clue about the difference between negotiating a business deal and negotiating with sovereign nations.”

He “knows more about ISIS than American generals.” That statement taken all by itself suggest to me at least that this clown — I refer to Trump — has no business anywhere near the nuclear launch codes.

I’m not expecting those who have supported Trump’s incredible — and by “incredible” I mean “not credible” — rise in political power to forsake their guy. Still, how many testimonies such as the one delivered by Robert Gates does it take to persuade others that they are banking their country’s national security on someone who knows not a single thing about protecting it?

Or them? Or their families?

Listen to one of your own, GOP

No one ever has accused Robert Gates of being a Barack Obama apologist.

He’s a Republican. Gates served as defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration; he stayed in that post during part of the first term of the Obama administration. He left office, and then wrote a memoir that was quite critical of many aspects of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy and defense matters.

So, when Robert Gates scolds his fellow Republicans for their incessant criticism of the president’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine, well, the man’s got some credibility.


Gates told Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that the critics ought to back off. He noted that in 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia, no one accused President Bush of being unwilling to use military force if the need arose.

The current president deserves a bit of breathing room to “manage this crisis,” Gates told Wallace. Indeed, the constant carping from those on the right seem to be giving aid and comfort to an adversary — Russian President Vladimir Putin — who’s unafraid to exploit any perceived weakness from someone on the other side.

Of course, Wallace had to bring up Obama’s golf outing during this crisis. Gates answered that all presidents need time to chill out, given that they often “work 20 hours a day.”

I only would add that presidents of the United States never are off the clock.

Hey, didn’t Russia invade Georgia … in 2008?

The criticism of President Obama’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine crisis of 2014 ignores the Russia-Georgia crisis of 2008.

Six years ago, Russian dictator/president Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia, another one of those former Soviet satellite states. The U.S. president at the time, George W. Bush, let it happen. What could President Bush to stop Putin? Nothing. What should he have done? Go to war? That’s a tough call, given that the United States was already involved in two shooting wars at the time, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’m left to wonder: Where was the criticism from the right back then? It was silent.

Move forward to the present day. Russian troops are sitting in Crimea, a region of Ukraine. There might be more military involvement from Russia, which is nervous over the ouster of pro-Russia president by insurgents in Ukraine.

What’s President Obama supposed to do? What can he do? Does he go to war with Russia? Well, of course not.

Yet the criticism is pouring in from the right, from the likes of Sen. John McCain, former defense boss Donald Rumsfeld, former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, every right-wing talking head this side of Sean Hannity. They’re all bemoaning the “invasion” of Russian troops of a sovereign country, Ukraine.

Oh, but wait. Didn’t this country invade a sovereign country, Iraq, in March 2003 because — we were told — the late dictator Saddam Hussein had this big cache of chemical weapons?

President Bush told us once that he peered into Putin’s “soul” and saw a man of commitment and integrity. Well, that soul also belongs to a former head of the KGB, the former Soviet spy agency.

I’m thinking another key Republican, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has it right. He’s telling his fellow GOPers to tone down the criticism while the president tries — along with our allies — to manage a dangerous crisis.

President vs. Military: Nothing new in Gates book

My friends on the right are having a good time these days dissecting former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency, particularly the part about the president’s strained relations with the military. He writes about it in his memoir, “Duty.”

I have been wondering about that. Is it really unique to this president, or to the office, that the commander in chief would have difficulty with the brass?

I tend to think not.


The link attached here contains part of an interview that Sean Hannity had with Gates in which Hannity seems to seek to lure Gates into acknowledging some kind of special animus between this White House and the Pentagon.

Again, is that really new and unique to this administration?

I am going to share a brief personal recollection on that very subject.

My late uncle, Tom Kanelis, was a career Army officer. He enlisted in 1943 and then received his commission some time after that. He then served during the Korean War, where he saw all kinds of hell as an infantry officer with the 2nd Infantry Division. He would serve a total of 27 years in the Army before retiring in 1970 with rank of colonel.

His last post was at the Pentagon, where he served as a staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He attended many high-level briefings with the Joint Chiefs and their civilian bosses, namely the defense secretary and his staff.

I asked Tom about the brass’s view of civilian authority. He was pretty unequivocal. The brass resented all civilian authority, period, he said. I was shocked to hear that. “What about Ike?” I asked of President Dwight Eisenhower, the former general of the Army who — as you will recall — played a huge role in defeating Hitler’s forces during World War II. Didn’t matter, Tom said. Once Ike took off his uniform and and then entered politics, he added, he became one of “them.”

Yes, this is just one example. Other officers have different views of different presidents. Ronald Reagan is held up as the recent example of a commander in chief who had huge respect among the ranks of the brass.

I also know that the brass at the highest levels won’t say directly whether they disagree with a civilian edict. They take an oath to follow lawful orders without questioning them.

Gates’s revelations about Barack Obama and his top military commanders doesn’t surprise me in the least. They’ve existed at some level throughout the history of the Republic and will exist for as long as the nation exists.

That means forever.

Could this memoir have waited?

John McCain isn’t exactly a friend of Barack Obama. I’ve had this nagging notion that McCain hasn’t gotten over getting drubbed by the then-young senator from Illinois in their 2008 campaign for the presidency.

The Arizona U.S. senator, though, posits an interesting thought about a memoir that is critical of his former campaign adversary. He said today the author of “Duty,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, should have waited until the end of the Afghanistan War to release this tell-all tale.


It is puzzling, some have argued, that a former defense chief — who was asked to stay on when the new commander in chief took charge in 2009 — would be so harshly critical of his former boss at this time in history.

These kinds of memoirs do reverberate around the world. The United States is seeking to wind down its longest-running war, seeking to hand combat operations over to the Afghans who have everything to gain and lose in this struggle.

Does this memoir undercut that effort? Does it place men and women in harm’s way in additional peril at some undefined level?

I’m not sure when it’s ever right to publish a memoir that criticizes the commander in chief while military operations are still on-going.

I do respect John McCain’s view on these matters, given his own extensive and distinguished military career.

Now that the book is out and the full-throated chatter on it has commenced, time will tell if it does any damage in the field.

What’s so new about Gates’s memoir?

Robert Gates is a great American patriot.

He served two presidents with honor and distinction as defense secretary. He’s an expert in national security issues. I honor his service and thank him for it.

His new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” has the political class all a flutter in Washington.


My question is this: Why is this such a huge deal?

Yes, he criticizes President Obama’s alleged lack of commitment to the Afghanistan War; he says Vice President Biden has been wrong on every decision the White House faced; he says the West Wing’s grasp on national security power is tighter than since the Nixon years.

Gates’s book is no different than many memoirs written after key government officials leave office. They have this habit of spilling the beans on their bosses once they’re clear of the place. Presidents of both political parties have fallen victim to this kind of remembrance.

Gates is no different.

What’s been interesting has been the emphasis certain media have placed on the book.

Conservative media, for instance, have devoted many hours and column inches to Gates’s criticism of President Obama and Vice President Biden. Other media outlets take note that Gates saved arguably his harshest criticism for Congress, half of which is controlled by Republicans, the other half by Democrats.

Gates has been pretty thorough in his trashing of the political establishment in Washington, now that he’s gone.

I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read the book. I plan to read it once I get through the other books I received as Christmas gifts.

I’m betting I won’t see anything I haven’t read before.