(You’ll have to wait a while to see what Christie and Limbaugh are doing here)
I saw Bob Gates recently at the Kimmel Center Speakers’ Series, and he was quite a charming fellow. He had a lot of funny anecdotes from when he was head of the CIA, like when Reagan’s hearing aid was buzzing and he took it out, looked right at Gates, and said “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just my KGB handler trying to contact me.”
One of the questions from the audience was about the Snowden revelations. His jaw started trembling; you could see how angry he was. Explaining that all countries spy on each other, he said “Spare me the sea of hypocrisy.”
The greatest threat to our national security, he said, is the paralysis in Washington.
He was funny, articulate, entertaining, smart. I admired him.
He didn’t say much at all about Obama, however. It was striking, and now we see why.
His new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” is sharply critical of Obama. From the Washington Post’s book review, by Greg Jaffe:
He recounts his thoughts during a tense 2011 meeting with Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in the White House Situation Room: “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. For him, it’s all about getting out.”
And yet as Bob Woodward (of all people) writes, again in the Washington Post:
Gates’s severe criticism is even more surprising — some might say contradictory — because toward the end of “Duty,” he says of Obama’s chief Afghanistan policies, “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”
I’ve read that Obama makes decisions by adopting different points of view, even playing devil’s advocate in meetings. I guess this must have unnerved Gates. From Jaffee’s review:
He compares Obama unfavorably with Bush, who “had no second thoughts about Iraq, including our decision to invade.”
No problem there. Just send all the troops in, let them die; and where were all those WMDs anyway? Let me look under my couch. After all, I’m the Decider.
I’ve always thought people most strongly criticize in others that which they most despise in themselves. It’s called projection. Again from Woodward:
Gates also writes of the toll taken by the difficulty of overseeing wars against terrorism and insurgencies in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Such wars do not end with a clear surrender; Gates acknowledges having ambiguous feelings about both conflicts. For example, he writes that he does not know what he would have recommended if he had been asked his opinion on Bush’s 2003 decision to invade Iraq.
He’s intellectually and emotionally conflicted. From the last paragraph of Jaffee’s review:
In a meeting with Obama’s national security team a few days before the president’s inauguration, Gates described being defense secretary as “the most gratifying experience of my life.” Only days earlier, in an e-mail to a friend, he confided: “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”
And from Woodward again:
In “Duty,” Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanor as a facade. Underneath, he writes, he was frequently “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”
Poor Bob Gates. I feel a little sorry for him. He really was a Secretary at War – with himself.
Obama, so much more psychologically evolved, must be seething.
Fortunately, however, we have Chris Christie’s bridge to thank for one-upping the news, and Rush Limbaugh for pointing that out.