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White House Gates Strategy: What’s the Big Fuss?

The White House today low-keyed its response to an incendiary book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, suggesting nobody in the White House particularly cared much about the 640-page tome.

Gates made a series of damaging charges against the Obama administration, including that Vice President Biden was a serial screw up when it came to foreign policy judgements and that Obama sent U.S. servicemen and women into harm’s way in the Afghanistan “surge” without having confidence in the mission.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today said he had a copy of the book but hadn’t bothered to read it. What’s more, he doesn’t know who else has a copy, including whether the president has one on his desk or will ever read it.

Well, either someone’s misleading the press or the White House PR operation should be sued for malpractice. According to David Martosko of the Daily Mail, it’s more the former than the latter.

From his piece, which quotes an unnamed White House staffer:

“They’re breaking it down and dividing it up in the West Wing,” the aide told MailOnline, describing a frantic scene. “No one saw this coming.” The White House staffer who spoke to MailOnline said that “by morning there were chapters floating around.”

In a separate conversation, he added that “this is very, very bad. Jay is spinning everyone. But then, that’s his job.”

Mortosko’s take makes sense. Assigning chapters to various aides for a quick read and response is what I’d expect of the White House.

The low-key approach was accompanied by an aggressive seizure of the high road, with the White House praising Gates for his service and quoting sections of the book complimentary to Obama.

The willingness to defend Biden, both by issuing a statement lauding his foreign policy expertise and having him appear in a photo op with Obama today, may be, as Jonathan Allen points out in Politico, an effort shift the focus from Obama to Biden. But it’s more likely in response to a nervous Biden insisting that he be protected in order to help preserve his viability for 2016.

Nevertheless, the White House did rebut the stunning charge that Obama launched 30,000 surge troops into battle without believing they could succeed.

Obama had “great faith in the mission itself,” Carney said.

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31 Responses to White House Gates Strategy: What’s the Big Fuss?

  1. “No one saw this coming.”

    Here goes my take on the book snips and revelations thus far: There have been many, too many generals and commanders who have been laid to waste by the administration. I believe the leaks, the Hollywood invites to the War Room and the attempt to belittle, dismantle, change the ROE, crap negotiations with Iran, Karzai, the PA, Libya, Egypt, Turkey …ad infinitum finally created the impetus for Gates to author his memoirs. Of course, no one saw this coming – they have their heads so firmly planted in a 1965 state of mind that they stopped recording history the day Obama was born.

  2. 640 pages is definitely more than a book, tome is the right word to describe it. Since it would be difficult to remember what happened, when it happened, and who said what, then MrGates must have either been keeping a journal or has papers or documents that he referred to when writing this tome.
    A year is not a very long time to write something this detailed, find a publisher, have it edited, and placed for publication. This tome was in the making for years, and someone knew it was coming; just not this soon.
    Considering the remarks and accusations concerning a sitting President and that the war in Afganistan is on-going, surely the White House was advised of what was in the book, and was provided with advance copies.
    I seem to be writing my own “tome” here just to indicate that there could be national security issues with these relevations. Why wasn’t this stopped or postponed until all our troops are out of Afganistan, or until 2017?

    • Troops are set to go in 2014. I think Gates was hoping to protect and defend them before their departure, since three out of four deaths and injuries have occurred under Obama. As far as national security goes, I think his book got the heads up from all the alphabet agencies. Possibly signs of an internecine war between the WH and the agencies.

      • Agree. And to srdem65’s point this was not a spur of the moment post retirement little memoir.

        I noted my uneasiness with Gates’ not resigning or speaking out sooner. Someone reminded me that had that happened Panetta and Hagel would have done worse sooner. And I agree. All things considered this was a service to our men and women in uniform. Everything else pales.

  3. oh Jay, Jay, Jay…remember when you used to be a journalist? what sad times you’ve fallen on.

    nobody but Al Sharpton would believe Obama doesn’t care about this. his own wonderfulness is the only thing he DOES care about. he’s got to be furious, and surely sees it as a major betrayal. hey, when do you think Gates will be getting his audit notice from the IRS?

    and I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the Clinton household, as Bill and Hill discuss how to game this one out to their best advantage.

  4. btw…I assume Gates doesn’t mention the name, but I would bet that one of the primary “political” WH people he was chafing against was Valerie Jarrett.

  5. As far as the MSM go, cooperating with Obama as usual?, the book is already being nudged off the front page by the Chris Christie scandal. But I’ll have to say that when Obama and Christie got together on the beaches of Sandy, Obama must have given him some pointers on how to abrogate responsibility and shift the blame to someone else. Where have we heard “I didn’t know” before?

  6. Biden suffers from senility. And he talks about running for the presidency? Well, I expect him to pass some type of capability test. We already have a mendacious chief executive and another snake in the shape of HIllary.

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