Gates’ Book: White House Betrayal, or Bonanza for Democracy?

He was within his rights to write, but maybe he should have waited

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Happier Days: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama share a laugh as Gates leaves his Pentagon job in June 2011.

What a difference three years can make. When White House aides were leaking juicy details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates famously exploded. “Shut the f— up,” he demanded.

That same White House team is no doubt wishing Gates had taken his own advice before publishing Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. That account of his Pentagon tenure, including an unvarnished look at the way he felt the Obama Administration dissed the U.S. military, is due out next week, although much of its content has already…leaked.

National security types are in a tizzy over the story line, orbiting around a detached Obama, a cabal of power-hungry White House aides, and a Vice President who kept warning the commander-in-chief that those in uniform couldn’t be trusted. Jane Average, along with GI Joe, may be scratching their heads and wondering: isn’t writing a book like this illegal for such a high link in the chain of command? Especially when the nation is at war? Perhaps a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Bad manners?

By all accounts, legal and otherwise, Gates is free to publish such a tell-all, assuming it has been scrubbed of any classified information. In other words, it passes the tell test, if not the smell test.

“It’s a question of political good taste,” says Eugene Fidell, a lecturer on military law at Yale University and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Gates, as a civilian, isn’t subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s ban on a soldier’s “contemptuous words” toward the President, he says. “But I think he might have well waited a little longer.”

The volume also sends up a red flag about the wisdom of a new President reaching across the political aisle for help. That’s what Obama did when he asked Gates, a Republican selected by President George W. Bush to run the Pentagon in 2006, to stay on the job in the new Administration. “It does raise the question of what is the loyalty and discretion expected of a person of one party, who is permitted to hold high office by a President of the other party,” Fidell says. “To me, there is some difficulty there — I think there’s a kind of cheesiness to it.”

Current and former military officers say that although Gates did nothing wrong in publishing his book while the Obama Administration remains in office, most agree with Fidell that it probably would have been better if he had waited until there was a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There are concerns that such reporting will make Presidents more guarded in their dealings with their Cabinet officers.

One retired four-star officer wishes Gates had voiced some of these concerns when he was still running the Defense Department. “On a personal basis, I wish this would have come out while he was in the job,” says Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general who served as chief of U.S. Central Command. “If the White House was over-controlling, what did he do about it — other than carp about it, after the fact?”

But Zinni, echoing what some active-duty officers say, like that Gates has the guts to publicly state his thoughts, instead of leaking them, anonymously, to someone like author Bob Woodward. “Maybe it’s too soon, and it might have been more appropriate after the Administration left,” he says. “But overall, I think it’s healthy for the American people to see how the inner workings go, either positively or negatively.”

“He swore an oath to the Constitution—not to the President,” adds Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general. “Believe this book adds to the public policy debate. Let his argument stand or fall on its own merits.”

Retired Army lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters says Gates is guilty of Washington’s worst sin: “He told the truth.”

“Of course, we’ll now hear no end of personal attacks on him, but I believe he viewed writing this book as a last, essential duty to his country,” Peters says. “
I have not always agreed with Gates, but never questioned his integrity or motives
.”

44 comments
dectra
dectra

Gates comes across as both churlish and self serving.


If he truly couldn't stand the WH staff, or hated his job so much, he should have quit sooner. 


Still laughing at how he tried to talk out of both sides of his mouth throughout the book...."I didn't like the President"  followed by "What a great guy, I really admire the President"

earmuffs
earmuffs

I can't believe some of the nonsense and outright lies I am reading in this comment section. Are 90% of Time readers Republican? No matter what Gates says, he had a lot of influence in starting wars and Obama not only has ended them but has avoided one with Iran. Had Obama been president during 9-11, I am quite sure there would have been no Iraq war thus avoiding the hundreds of thousands of "kids" sent to war for corporate purposes. The middle east was and is a total mess and Obama was left to pick up the pieces. There are a few comments decrying how Obama is too much of a thinker and should be shooting from the hip. This is truly amazing that for Republicans, a thinking President is a fault. I guess a President that avoids wars is one that is not good for the war industry and is guaranteed to but heads with a warmongering adviser. 

mdd608
mdd608

Obama and Clinton sent 30 thousand kids into harms way because it helped their politics?  Its the most disgusting series of acts I've ever heard of.  I expect that the President and Hilary wont answer any questions about this travesty.  Its their style after all.  What Difference Does It Make????? 

MMadera
MMadera

Perhaps he should have resigned, and should have given the reasons for his action. Now, he is just another McNamara.

LeaveComments
LeaveComments

Political good taste?? That one made me spew my coffee! What a laugh. Talk about hypocrisy.

nspiusa
nspiusa

It is a pity a lot more people do not put the interest of "WTP" ahead of protecting the fraudulent regime that is the current presidency. 

There is a LOT of CORRUPTION< and a LOT of "guilty knowledge" that needs to come out. 

Jail them ALL

NO MERCY

People KNOW what is going on and yet do and say nothing.

May they rot in jail, or Hell!

DarleneRitterGoodfellow
DarleneRitterGoodfellow

It's funny, because what Gates and the media consider "criticism" of the President is, IMO, some of his qualities. Questioning his own strategy? If only W had some of the introspection.

ajbruno14
ajbruno14

Unlike offerings from the Left, no one can accuse Gates of an "October Surprise".  And for the Hillary loving lemming, nothing can dissuade them from voting for her...unless Mrs Obama decides to run...which will put them once again in a difficult position, not supporting the first woman AND Black candidate for president.

jdk47
jdk47

If he was criticizing Bush Time would consider him a national hero.

StaffIran-Conoco
StaffIran-Conoco

Gates now needs to write a prequel to Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War disclosing what he knew about the Iran-Contra Affair (wikipedia.org) and Iran-Conoco Affair (Iran-Conoco-Affair.US) conspiracies as a Reagan-Bush Administration CIA spook and as the Bush-Quayle Administration CIA boss. The Urban Dictionary primary definition of "duty" (www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=duty) suggests a fitting title for the prequel would be: Bull-Duty: Memoirs of a Corporate Spy

elJones
elJones

I feel like this the kind of information that needs to be given before elections. What difference is it going to make now? I do question his motives as well. Too late.

jmac
jmac

I still cannot see any damage Gates might have done to Obama  from the leaks.     Obama is Commander-in-Chief - he had ever right to look at the money flowing into AFghanistan and the corruption and waste being done with that money by Karsai and change course.


The bottom line is Gates was wrong and Biden was right.   Al Qaeda had shifted to Pakistan and that's where we shifted.  And Obama didn't take the wishy-washy time that Lincoln took to change course.  It also makes Gates look bad to say Obama should have been firm in his resolve, like Bush.  Let's hope we never, ever have a president so firm in his belief (from week one)  that he can't change course.   


I agree maybe Gates should have waited - but only for his own reputation.  Of course, it all depends on what the book says - the leaks might not tell the story.   

haroldlewisblair
haroldlewisblair

somebody should tell gates that Obama is off limits and its a good thing h didn't go into Obama's hidden background- or his invalid SSN or FORGED birth certificate-

Icansee4miles
Icansee4miles

Gates was the right Secretary of Defense for a different era; an expansionist U.S. era. President Obama recognized that the U.S. needs to conserve its resources for the war that is to come-to de-nuke Iran, as told with prescience in Amazon Kindle's thriller-The Bahrain Protocol.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@dectra Just one answer to that, Doctor. If he is talking out of both sides of his mouth how come Obama never repeat never said No, that is not true, No did not happen, No I did not say that. See that is the problem with arguing or discussing with you guys. You never answer direct or address the core issue. You resort name calling insults deflecting to avoid direct answers. Just like your role model Obama.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@mdd608And maybe it is only the tip of the iceberg. All those decisions made behind the scenes, who made them, why they made them. What we only see are the disastrous effects on the country since the media have been bought and paid for to suppress any negative news about the Democrats, the liberals and Obama/Clinton partnership. The question really is not whether it is a bonanza for democracy or a betrayal. Bob Gates is only doing what an honest journalist should be doing. We elected a man who makes his decision based on personal popularity and politics without any regard to the well being and safety of the country he swore to protect and serve. And Americans are about to compound the mistake further by electing the first female President to the White House just because she is a female and they want to feel good about it. Never mind her zero lack of knowledge achievement and her radicalism and corruption. It is as if electing the first black man to the Presidency was already an achievement. And look at the result.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@MMadera You wonder if perhaps Gates thought to himself, "heck of an opportunity to be inside the other team and then write a book later".  This is one of my basic complaints of BO, that he is often naive.  He wanted to have people from the other side as part of his administration thinking he might be able to trust them.  

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@DarleneRitterGoodfellow I agree, I see these as good things not bad.  Trust the Generals?  Believe in the war?  If I were BO those would be about the first things I'd have doubt in.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@DarleneRitterGoodfellowIf Dubya had some of his introspection up to now Dubya would still be instrospecting while the troops is still awaiting his decisions

Military decisions cannot afford an introspective man like Obama. Obama would do well in philosophical matters. You know like that statue The Thinker by Rodin

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@ReneDemonteverde Whoa....I don't know what infantile publications you are reading but you need to change it up.  Never hear any of the controversies, many of which have a lot to do with integrity?  Pick a war.  Any war, you will find plenty.  My personal favorites are the wars that were mainly fought for the benefit of the munitions dealers.  Oops, that's most of them.  

MMadera
MMadera

@ReneDemonteverde

After the latest incidents with some of our top generals, I think that generalizing is not quite accurate.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@StaffIran-ConocoThose were nothing compared to what Obama did to his own troops. And I wont even mention of his propensity of sending secret messages to America`s prospective enemies. Plus the immediate furnishing of tax payer money to lawyers to the Muslim terrorists and bombers caught thus stopping the FBI from garnering info that could save American lives in the future. You are barking up the wrong tree.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@jmacJmac just a reminder. If you hire people as advisers in time of war and you disregard their advice it is not only an insult but you are putting the lives of enlisted men and women in danger by your callowness. Being a community organizer is not the same as being Commander in Chief. That is what make Dubya a hell lot better than Obama. Obama likes the title but dislikes the work and responsibility that goes with it. Hence the fiasco in Benghazi.

haroldlewisblair
haroldlewisblair

next time Obama will choose a DEMCRAT who is as crooked as he is-

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@ReneDemonteverde You must be chomping on nuts too much.  "her zero lack of knowledge" pretty much sums up that, like or dislike, you don't know anything about her.  Even her biggest opponents concede that she is brilliant, experienced, and if nothing else, knowledgeable.  

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@notLostInSpace@ReneDemonteverdeNow isnt that obvious ? 

During wartime we expend ammo. The more we use the more orders and reorders made. Not unless we use slingshots but in that case the gravel companies and dealers would make a killing in profit and you will moan and whine again the benefits we give them. As for infantile publications surely you dont think that National Inquirer is infantile ?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@MMadera@ReneDemonteverdeWhat like Gen Petraeus ? Women have been after great warriors for thousand of years. Oh you mean like Commander in Chiefs like Obama yeah you are right. He should not have passed secret messages to Putin. I agree with you.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@dectra @ReneDemonteverde Maybe he wrote, maybe he wrote. {With apologies to Homer Simpson} But Obama is acting on it. Well he just need a pen and a phone to issue executive orders.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@dectra Just give one positive achievement Doctor. Just one. By the way, can you imagine Hillary without Bill Clinton ? Where would she be, Doctor ? You think we would be hearing of her ?

dectra
dectra

@ReneDemonteverde

Rene, you are the classic Low Information Voter.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@notLostInSpace @ReneDemonteverde Cant help but add this one although I already finished answering you. Brilliant ? Political machinations. Yes, I will give you that one. Truthfulness, honesty, integrity traits we sorely needed nowadays after Obama. No. Brilliant Even my dog cannot stop herself from laughing on that one. Good one though

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@notLostInSpace @ReneDemonteverde As Krauthammer challenged some of his co panelists. Name one of Hillary positive achievent. Just one. No, Benghazi does not count. And to give you some mental challenge. Without Bill Clinton in the picture where would Hillary be ?

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@ReneDemonteverde @notLostInSpace @MMadera   LOL when you guys turn on your own.....geez  Rene, did Gates need the $?  Or is it better to stick it up your political rival's a__ when the poker is hot and the time is right?   I'd be disappointed if BO ever again tries to include the nut wing party in anything.  Every time he does he gets gored by the nuts  (Gates, Hagel, AFCA, etc) (yeah, you probably believe the fairy tale that AFCA was written just for the left).

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@ReneDemonteverde Your reply pretty much indicates that your source of information is the National Inq?  lol, but I'm surprised it wasn't Fox.