(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) demurred Tuesday when asked to comment on former defense secretary Robert Gates's new book and his comments about how lawmakers comport themselves during public hearings and on military and spending matters.

In his new book and in an essay summarizing the book published by the Wall Street Journal, Gates says he was "continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress."

Gates also described enduring congressional hearings "where rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks on witnesses by members of Congress violated nearly every norm of civil behavior."

Asked about those comments, Bohner said: "He's entitled to his comments under the First Amendment just like anyone else."

But Boehner ignored follow-up questions on whether he agreed with any of Gates's comments.