The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

Headline News

January 9, 2014

White House defends itself and Biden over Gates book

WASHINGTON — Rushing to curb political fallout, the White House pushed back Wednesday against harsh criticism in a new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates that questions President Barack Obama’s war leadership and rips into Vice President Joe Biden.

The tell-all memoir from Gates has created a splash in Washington, casting a negative light on Obama’s national security operations by detailing a high level of discord among the small team that made key decisions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For two key participants — Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — the accusations could color how the two potential 2016 presidential candidates are viewed by voters.

Initially caught off guard by the book’s accusations, Obama’s aides walked a fine line between publicly rebuking his former defense chief and allowing Gates’ claims to go unchallenged. Still, the White House hurried to Biden’s defense and said the president disagrees with Gates’ characterization.

White House spokesman Jay Carney disputed several of Gates’ points individually but said Obama appreciated Gates’ service. He said those who have the privilege to serve at high levels make their own decisions about whether and when to divulge details of private conversations after they leave government.

“I’ll leave it to other folks to decide,” Carney said.

In the book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” Gates accuses Obama of having little resolve for his own strategy in Afghanistan and of presiding over a national security team in which military leaders were treated with suspicion and career staffers brushed aside as decisions were centralized among a small cadre of White House advisers.

But Gates reserves his most sweeping indictment for Biden. Despite praising Biden’s integrity and personal sense of loyalty, Gates asserts that the vice president “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

The White House moved quickly to dispel that notion, issuing a statement calling Biden a “leading statesmen of his time” and echoing the sentiment before television cameras.

“I don’t think anybody who has covered us or knows the president and the vice president, knows how this White House functions, has any doubt about the president’s faith in Vice President Biden as an adviser and counselor,” Carney said.

In a rare departure from its usual policy, the White House allowed news photographers in Wednesday to Obama’s weekly luncheon with Biden in the private dining room just off the Oval Office, where Biden spoke animatedly to Obama as they two sat across each other at a wood table.

 Carney said the White House merely was giving photographers more access, which they have demanded.

Biden’s central role in decision-making also was on display in Obama’s public schedule for Wednesday, which showed the vice president meeting with the president five times during the day.

For the White House, defending Biden against questions about his value to the administration has become something of a familiar exercise. Late last year, Obama and his top aides sought to swat down reports in a book about Obama’s re-election that the White House had considered replacing Biden with Clinton on the 2012 ticket.

Sensitive to the fact that Biden was frequently overshadowed by Clinton during her prominent tenure as secretary of state, Obama has cautiously sought to avoid showing favoritism — especially when it comes to 2016.

Gestures that have appeared to bolster Clinton’s standing as an heir apparent to Obama — such as a private lunch the two shared last year — have frequently been followed by similar gestures to show Biden is still a valued part of the team. The day after Obama and Clinton dined together, Biden held his own private breakfast with Clinton.

Personal likeability aside, Gates’ contempt for Biden’s role in wartime decisions is evident throughout the nearly 600-page memoir, during which Gates accuses the vice president of seeding doubt in Obama’s mind about his Afghanistan policy and “subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture” with daily comments about how the military can’t be trusted.

Clinton, in contrast to Biden, is described in almost uniformly flattering terms — “smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague,” Gates writes.

One anecdote could potentially cause problems for Clinton should she run again in 2016. Gates describes a meeting during which Clinton and Obama both acknowledged their opposition to the Iraq war surge in 2007 was driven by the politics of the Democratic primary, in which Obama and Clinton were running against each other.

In one anecdote in the book, Obama, after fighting over the defense budget in 2009, personally gave Gates a gift-wrapped package — an expensive bottle of vodka with a handwritten note.

“Bob, Sorry I drive you to drink. Barack Obama,” the note read, according to Gates.

“It was a very thoughtful peace offering,” Gates wrote in the book.

While the White House has avoided directly rebuking Gates for writing the book, former Obama advisers have been more vocal. Former senior White House adviser David Axelrod said he was surprised when he heard about the book, while Bill Daley, who was Obama’s chief of staff during Gates’ tenure, called it a “disservice” for Gates to publish while Obama was still in office.

Such tell-all memoirs are not new to Washington and generally cause a brief stir as juiciest excerpts are leaked, circulated and dissected on TV and in the press before eventually fading.

“Read any good books lately?” Carney quipped Wednesday to reporters.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week.
    The actions of the man, whose mother said he had a mental disorder, rattled nerves as Boston prepared for the annual race, but authorities said they did not consider it a security breach.

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing anniversary

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014

  • Couple: Truck was on fire before deadly bus crash

    A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
    Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

    April 13, 2014

  • ‘Obamacare’ under attack as conservatives eye 2016

    Republicans eyeing the 2016 White House race battered President Barack Obama’s health care law and nicked each other Saturday, auditioning before a high-profile gathering of conservatives that some political veterans said marked the campaign’s unofficial start.

    April 13, 2014

  • Finance officials: Global economy turns the corner

    The world’s top finance officials expressed confidence Saturday that the global economy finally has turned the corner to stronger growth. This time, they may be right.
    Despite challenges that include market jitters about the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying slowdown and global tensions over Ukraine, policymakers said they believe there is a foundation for sustained growth that can provide jobs for the millions of people still looking for work five years after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    April 13, 2014

  • There’s a new ‘face,’ but old problems for health care law

    Abruptly on the spot as the new face of “Obamacare,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell faces steep challenges, both logistical and political.
    Burwell, until now White House budget director, was named by President Barack Obama on Friday to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the messy rollout of the health care overhaul.

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads