Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that it didn't make sense to withhold his scathing criticism of the Obama administration on Iraq and Afghanistan until the commander-in-chief he served left office.
Previous defense secretaries have held back on their memoirs. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Gates probably should have waited. But Gates insisted that his tell-all book, "Duty," due to be released Jan. 14, was not a betrayal of trust but rather an opportunity to reveal his "comprehensive and thoughtful views" on policy.
Gates was questioned on the CBS' Sunday Morning show about his motivations for the book, his relationship with the president, and whether the book raised questions about his own character.
"A lot of questions are being raised about whether it was proper in the first place for a secretary of defense to write anything negative about a sitting president, especially on policy matters that are still ongoing," CBS correspondent Rita Braver said to Gates.
"Frankly, it seems to me that with the experience and perspective of working for eight presidents, and having been secretary for four and a half years, I didn't think that waiting until 2017 to weigh in on these issues, and in a comprehensive and thoughtful way, made any sense," Gates responded.
Braver pressed Gates on his doubts about Obama's commitment to the war in Afghanistan "while it's still going on, and people are saying, 'Look, that's just not right."
Gates said he made a point to be "very explicit in the book that I agreed with all of the president's decisions on Afghanistan, the ones that he made in 2009 and subsequently."
However, Gates said that "over the course of 2010, or in 2011, the president began to have his own reservations about whether it would all work. That's not an unfair thing to say."
While praising Gates' service, McCain said the timing of the release of the book was troubling.
"I think, frankly, I might've, if I had given him advice, I would've waited," McCain said on CNN's Sunday Show. "But I also respect his ability to voice his views anytime he wants to."
Gates was "obviously very frustrated" serving under Obama and "he's decided to kind of really let loose," McCain said.
On ABC's This Week, Rep. Adam Kinsinger, R-Ill., an Air Force reserve officer who served two tours in Iraq, backed up Gates, saying "it's important for some of this to come out."
In his Sunday show appearance, Gates renewed the book's criticisms of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while adding that Biden and Clinton could make good presidents should they choose to run in 2017.
"Actually, I think she would," Gates said of Clinton. As for Biden, Gates said: "I suppose to be even-handed, I would have to say I suppose he would."
Gates, a Republican and former career CIA officer, said Obama fell short of former President George W. Bush in his commitment to supporting the troops.
"It's one thing to tell the troops that you support them," Gates said. "It's another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed."
Gates said, "President Bush did that with the troops when I was secretary. I did not see President Obama do that. As I write in the book, it was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success, that disturbed me."
Gates said he was aware that he would be accused of backstabbing in writing the book, but stressed that he had no regrets.
"I don't. I think that it's an honest account," Gates said. "Look, people gave me a lot of credit when I was in office for being blunt and candid about what I felt about things. I could hardly be any less in writing a book."
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