Defense Secretary Robert Gates Speaks With NPR News

NPR NEWS INTERVIEWS ROBERT GATES ON CRITICISMS IN MEMOIR, AND TIME AS DEFENSE SECRETARY

Gates on Comments about Biden and Foreign Policy: "Frankly, I believe it."

Also Clarifies Criticisms of Obama Administration, Addresses Decision to Release Book Now

Airing in Two Parts Today on 'Morning Edition'

January 13, 2014; Washington, D.C. – In his first interview since details from his memoir became public, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks with NPR News about some of the most widely-reported criticisms in the book, and his time in the position. During the two-part conversation with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, Gates addresses his criticisms of the Obama administration, and challenges the way some early news reports characterized his book. He also discusses his relationships with Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the timing of the book's release, his relationship with the armed forces and the emotional toll of his role at a time when the nation was conducting two wars.

The interview airs today, Monday, January 13, on NPR Member Stations (check local listings at npr.org/stations). Excerpts follow and a transcript is also available now at NPR.org.

Asked about his criticism of Obama in regards to the troop surge in Afghanistan, Gates says: "Some of the early reporting suggested that he made the decision in December or November 2009 believing it wouldn't work. I don't believe that for a second. President Obama would never do that in my view. I think when he made that decision in November 2009, he believed that strategy would work. I think through the course of 2010, in significant part, due to continuing pushing on him by the Vice President and by others in the White House, his doubts about whether this strategy could succeed would grow. Leading, ultimately, in March of 2011 to the comments that I made that I felt that the President didn't trust his commander and didn't like Karzai and had lost faith in his own strategy."

Asked if he questioned making remarks about a sitting president while a war is still under way, Gates says: "I did think about that. ...These are all contemporary issues and having worked for eight presidents and being a historian, I felt that I had a unique perspective. And these issues are with us today. These are not issues that can wait to be written about in 2017. And so that's the reason that I decided to go forward with the book."

On his remarks that Vice President Biden was wrong about every major foreign policy issue for 40 years, Gates says: "Well, two things. First of all, I think it's fair to say that, particularly on Afghanistan, the Vice President, he and I were on opposite sides of the fence on this issue. And he was in there advising the president every day. He was, I think, stoking the President's suspicion of the military. But the other side of it is, frankly, I believe it."

Asked about recounting a widely reported story in which Hillary Clinton admitted that her opposition to the troop surge in Iraq was motivated by political ambitions, Gates says: "I will say this about Hillary, in the two-and-a-half years that I served with her as secretary of state, I never once saw her let domestic politics affect her positions on issues. And maybe there's a difference between, you know, a senator who's running for political office and somebody who actually has responsibility."

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