Bob Gates, with Panache
I’ve watched with interest over the past few weeks as the media has feasted on excerpts from the new memoir, Duty, by former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. This is a pretty well-worn Washington tradition: do advance publicity for an otherwise workmanlike book by leaking its few moments of genuine provocation, then sit back and watch the sharks circle.
Truth be told, I don’t regard most of the “revelations” as befitting the name. Is anyone surprised that President Obama’s heart didn’t seem to be in the Afghan War (for Obama, it was only “the good war” relative to Iraq, not in absolute terms). Is anyone shocked that Vice President Biden consistently displays a facile approach to foreign policy? Are we stunned that Hillary Clinton and President Obama admitted behind closed doors that their opposition to the surge in Iraq was based on cynical political calculations (I actually find this somewhat heartening—I’d rather think of them as skilled, amoral politicos than complete naifs).
Gates—like his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, and his successor, Leon Panetta—is a decent man who genuinely wanted what was best for the country and the military. He’s also, it turns out, a bit of a firecracker (it helps in that job). From Joel Gehrke, writing at the Washington Examiner:
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn’t hide his contempt for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., when asked to answer Reid’s claim that he “denigrated” colleagues “to make a buck” with his new memoir.
“It’s common practice on the Hill to vote on bills you haven’t read, and it’s perfectly clear that Sen. Reid has not read the book. He will find that I do denigrate him,” Gates cracked back at a Politico event promoting his new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.
I like the cut of his jib.