Gates clarifies: Obama didn’t say his opposition to surge was political

Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Former defense secretary Robert Gates on Monday clarified comments made in his book, saying he didn't mean to contend that President Obama opposed the troop surge in Iraq for political purposes.

"What I say in the book was that the president conceded a lot of opposition to the surge had been political," Gates said on NBC's "Today Show." "He never said that his opposition had been political. And, in fact, his opposition was consistent with his opposition to the war all along."

In the book, Gates says clearly that then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton admitted her opposition to the surge had been because of her 2008 primary against Obama.

Gates then wrote that, "The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political" — not a direct claim about the president.

But Gates then wrote that he regarded both Clinton's and Obama's concessions as disappointing: "To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Appearing on National Public Radio, Gates also expounded on his claim that Vice President Biden has routinely been wrong about almost every major national security and foreign policy decision of the last four decades.

Gates wasn't backing off that contention.

“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," Gates said. "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.”

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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