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Robert Gates Lauded As Breaker of Barriers

Robert Gates, right, and former president George H.W. Bush, a close associate, watch as the Corps of Cadets enter the stadium before a football game at Texas A& M University.
Robert Gates, right, and former president George H.W. Bush, a close associate, watch as the Corps of Cadets enter the stadium before a football game at Texas A& M University. (By David J. Phillip -- Associated Press)

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Gates, who holds a PhD in Soviet history from Georgetown University, left government in 1993 for academia. He became president of Texas A&M University in 2002, a post he described yesterday as the most enjoyable of his career.

"I had not anticipated returning to government service," he said at a White House announcement ceremony, flanked by Bush and Rumsfeld. But he said that the United States is engaged in wars that "will shape our world for decades to come," and that with "so many of America's sons and daughters . . . in harm's way, I did not hesitate when the president asked me to return to duty."

Gates appeared to get a cordial reception from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will have to confirm his appointment. "I think he will be a very pleasant change from Secretary Rumsfeld" in his dealings with Congress, said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a vocal member of the panel.

But Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence panel, called the Gates nomination "deeply troubling."

Holt, a retired intelligence officer and a nuclear physicist, said that while at the CIA's helm, "Gates developed a reputation for pressuring analysts and managers to shape analytical conclusions to fit administration positions." Holt said Gates's confirmation hearing "should be thorough and probing."

While Gates contrasts sharply with Rumsfeld in style, the two are comparable in intellect and energy, associates said. Only hours after a recent knee surgery, for example, Gates took part in the Texas A&M football weekend tradition known as the "midnight yell," said Michael C. Desch, a professor of intelligence at the university. One of Gates's major initiatives at the university was to muster support for a 25 percent increase in the size of the faculty, which was "huge," Desch said, and won Gates admiration.

A former Eagle Scout, Gates is an avid hiker who enjoys spending time at his vacation house in the Pacific Northwest. He is married and has two children.

Staff writers Thomas E. Ricks, Karen DeYoung, R. Jeffrey Smith, Dafna Linzer and Sylvia Moreno, and staff researcher Julie Tate, contributed to this report.


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