Will Gates’ memoir be a political Scud — or a dud?

posted at 12:01 pm on January 9, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When the first excerpts of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir My Duty emerged before its January 14 release date, they seemed calculated to do maximum damage to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Without a doubt, the quotes released had significant sensational value — accusing Obama of sending more troops to a war he didn’t think he could win, and Clinton of admitting that nothing nore than baldfaced politics lie in her opposition to the 2007 surge that salvaged — for a time, anyway — western Iraq. Those quotes did get people talking, but will the damage last, or does this just confirm long-embraced narratives?

In my column for The Fiscal Times, I predict that nothing much will come of these releases, especially the context in which Gates frames them in the book:

The decision in December 2009 to increase force strength by adding 30,000 combat troops to the theater followed from Obama’s campaign pledge to put the “distraction” of Iraq behind the US and focus on the legitimate front of the war on terror. However, in private discussions, Gates writes that Obama was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” even while ordering the troops into combat.

Needless to say, this feeds into a lot of pre-existing opinions of President Obama. Conservatives, especially those in favor of a robust forward military strategy, never believed that Obama was in it for victory. In fact, many pointed out at the time that the President never once included the word “victory” in his speech announcing the escalation. As I wrote at the time:

The only sense of real mission I get from this speech is that we’re going to send 30,000 more troops now so we can start evacuating all of them in the summer of 2011.  It sounds like a slow-motion Dunkirk, and it recalls what Winston Churchill had to say after being congratulated for rescuing the entire British Army and a good portion of the French Army in 1940 from that massive cross-Channel evacuation: “Wars are not won by evacuations.”  And apparently Obama agrees, since he didn’t bother to talk about victory at all, but instead treated it as a massive responsibility that he reluctantly will fulfill.

As revelations go, this is useful for confirmation, but not exactly a surprise.

Likewise, the same is true about Hillary’s political calculations on the surge. Everyone at the time knew that had been nothing but a way to cozy up to the Left, which castigated her for supporting the war in Iraq. The Clintons have few (if any) political principles that don’t begin with what’s good for the Clintons — and everyone has known this for decades now.  Plus, Gates goes out of his way to note that he agreed with all of Obama’s decisions on Afghanistan, and that Hillary is “smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.” Admissions on these points may be helpful, but they’re not going to change minds at this late date on either figure.

Clearly there is going to be plenty of nuance from the book, and opponents of Obama and Clinton who climb aboard these few excerpts to proclaim Gates the ur-text of Hillary’s disqualifications for office may end up having their knees cut out from underneath them when the rest of the book appears next week.

Or perhaps even before. Ron Fournier looks at the Obama revelation from another angle, and asks why people would be unhappy that a President elected on the basis of anti-war sentiment would deploy skepticism about what his generals told him:

Then remember why Obama was elected in 2008. He reflected the nation’s ambivalence toward war, promising to pull out of Iraq and wean Afghanistan from U.S. dependence. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, waged war on Iraq under false pretenses and with a lack of skepticism toward neoconservatives in his war Cabinet, led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Initially, anyway, he deferred to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his generals. Famously calling himself “The Decider,” Bush rarely revisited a decision, and earned a reputation for stubbornness.

When the president finally fired Rumsfeld and distanced himself from Cheney, it was too late; the public’s opinion of the war and of the president had plummeted.

It’s with that context people will read Gates’s description of a pivotal meeting in the Situation Room in March 2011, called to discuss the Afghan withdrawal timetable. A frustrated Obama opened by expressing doubts about Gen. David Patraeus, his commander in Afghanistan, and questioning whether he could do business with the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai.

“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Gates wrote. The only troubling thing about this assessment is Obama’s apparent lack of ownership—and it rings true, given his penchant for ducking responsibility during his first five years in office.

But doubts about an ally and his commanders? We need more of that. A lack of skepticism, curiosity, and reflection sunk Bush. Further back, who knows how many lives would have been saved during the Vietnam War had President Johnson acted on his private doubts, most of which didn’t come to light until after he left office. Abraham Lincoln ran through a series of generals until he found one he could trust to win the Civil War, Ulysses Grant.

Plus, in the end Obama went along with the generals on the escalation in December 2009, even if he was skeptical of the prospects for success and backing away from the notion of overall victory.

On Hillary, The Week’s Jon Terbush thinks this will be a nine-day wonder, too:

Yes, Clinton has often been accused of drifting with the political winds. But I’m skeptical that anyone in 2016 will truly care about — let alone remember — one line about years-old events in a score-settling memoir released during the doldrums of early 2014.

Voters care far more about the economy, health care, and a whole host of other issues than they do about all of America’s foreign entanglements combined, per a recent Associated Press survey. Only 14 percent of respondents want the government to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan this year — half the number who want immigration front and center — and that number will only drop as the wars further wind down.

Plus, as Cillizza concedes, politicians make this sort of calculation all the time. The presidential primaries for both parties are a months-long process of candidates courting the base before shifting back to the center for the general election. Progressive Democratic primary voters and moderate general election voters may not love this new detail about Clinton, but will they really abandon her in droves over a rather run-of-the-mill bit of political cravenness? …

So who might care about Clinton appearing to be no more than an M.C. Escher sketch of political calculations? Republicans — three-fourths of whom already don’t like Clinton and were never going to vote for her anyway.

I’m inclined to agree even though I do think that revelation is shameful, or should be. All it will do is reinforce existing narratives, not change any minds. Hillary’s actions on Benghazi will have — and should have — a lot more significance on her 2016 prospects.

I predict that Gates’ memoir will sell lots of copies, but will mainly influence the historical take on the Obama administration rather than impact politics much in the near term. Call this a dud rather than a Scud in those terms.

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Schadenfreude on January 9, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Dud. For something to have an effect even your allies need to be outraged by it. This stuff is exactly what liberals want. Everyone else already thinks the guy is an incompetent, narcissistic liar. They need no more evidence of it.

Rocks on January 9, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Nothing touches Obama because narcissists love their Hero Narcissist.

John the Libertarian on January 9, 2014 at 12:08 PM

Why should the media suddenly care? IObama won”.

Jeddite on January 9, 2014 at 12:09 PM

Let’s see – we learn that the Democrats are lying, dishonest, hyperpolitical skumsuckers who would sacrifice the lives of our military members if it was politically expedient or if there was an election or a primary afoot?

Yeah, that’s not news to us.

It may be news to some, but I doubt it moves the needle.

Good Lt on January 9, 2014 at 12:09 PM

It might move the needle for folks who are thinking of joining the military.

It might move the needle for vets who were thinking of running for Congress.

But no – it won’t impact the loyal scummy democrats.

redguy on January 9, 2014 at 12:18 PM

I heard Tom Hanks fell off a cliff.

John the Libertarian on January 9, 2014 at 12:22 PM

I’m hoping it will discourage Ms. Clinton from getting back into politics. I don’t know if the country can stand another president based on anything other than being qualified for the job.

Cindy Munford on January 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

ducking responsibility

King Barack the Magnificent excels at it.

GarandFan on January 9, 2014 at 12:33 PM

meh, if Ed doesn’t care I don’t care. Dud. just a bunch military collaterals after all…

DanMan on January 9, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Everyone else already thinks the guy is an incompetent, narcissistic liar. They need no more evidence of it.

Rocks on January 9, 2014 at 12:04 PM

He is nor incompetent, nor a liar. But, his former boss is “an incompetent, narcissistic liar”. Perfect!

Schadenfreude on January 9, 2014 at 12:43 PM

He should have quit when what he claims happened.

Schadenfreude on January 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM

F&F had no legs..GM takeover had no legs..green energy ripoffs had no legs..Benghazi had no legs..NBP voter intimidation had no legs..voter fraud had no legs..Ignoring constitutional law had no legs..giving massive unaccountable power and tax payer monies to “Czars” had no legs…etc…etc..etc.
But this book will get ’em!

Mimzey on January 9, 2014 at 12:51 PM

I predict that Gates’ memoir will sell lots of copies, but will mainly influence the historical take on the Obama administration rather than impact politics much in the near term. Call this a dud rather than a Scud in those terms.

The sycophants of the LSM will let this story slip into the ether before the start of next week – unlike their efforts to keep the similar ‘tell-alls’ from former Bush Administration members alive to damage Dubya.

It should not be a surprise to opponents of either BHO or HRC that they are primarily motivated by their ideology and the political conditions / situation in their decision making. They demonstrated this during their history in the public eye – all one needed to do was to believe what they were seeing as opposed to only seeing what one wanted to believe.

The disclosures of the excessive control, micro-management, and attitudes of distrust towards the members of the military also shouldn’t be much of a surprise if one has been watching this Administration closely over the last 5 years. It fits within the narcissistic, petulant, thin-skinned, feckless, and hubris of Barack Obama – and the team he has brought in to exercise executive power in order to achieve ‘fundamental change’.

Ed is right – all this does is provide a confirmation from inside the Administration all that we’ve seen (and feared) about Barack Obama and his willingness to abuse power in order to achieve his agenda. It’s not leadership in the traditional sense – but demonstrates the totalitarian / authoritarian instincts of a progressive ideologue.

Athos on January 9, 2014 at 12:55 PM

…but will they really abandon her in droves over a rather run-of-the-mill bit of political cravenness?

We are so jaded with craven behavior on the part of Democrats, particularly ones named Clinton, that we seem to have given up fighting them on issues of principle. We must not do that, ever.

drunyan8315 on January 9, 2014 at 12:59 PM

He should have quit when what he claims happened.

Schadenfreude on January 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM

…e x a c t l y !

KOOLAID2 on January 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Warriors BLED,
Hillary FLED

It all means nothing to the Gimmedats and their ever faithful lapdog Presstitutes in the Manure Spreading Media.

Missilengr on January 9, 2014 at 1:03 PM

….and there’s Ed, CHEERING a reaction of SILENCE and Turning Away from the Truths in Gates’ Book…….

Cheering for “The Other Team” a big activity, here….

When Outrage is the Appropriate Response……

williamg on January 9, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Here’s a thought: This may be the first of many more books to come that will share what really goes on behind the Arugula Curtain.

Gates isn’t a crackpot. If a credible figure like him can write candidly about Obama and Hillary, it may give encouragement for more people to come forward.

Mallard T. Drake on January 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

He should have quit when what he claims happened.

Schadenfreude on January 9, 2014 at 12:44 PM

…e x a c t l y !

KOOLAID2 on January 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Doesn’t make the story untrue.

avagreen on January 9, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Think about the book Petraeus could have written. But here’s the deal, both Petraeus and Gates sat back and let the election happen without mentioning a word of what they knew.

Gutsy call there Bob.

DanMan on January 9, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Fast & Furious, Al Qaeda / Libya, Muslim Brotherhood / Egypt, IRS Targeting, DOJ Spying on the media, NSA Spying, Firing 12 Generals, Refusing to talk to the family members of the Benghazi dead or the 9 Aug 11 SEAL Team 6 members who were ambushed / killed…
The evidence that Obama has no clue how to be a leader, that he hates the military, that he has sacrificed American lives continuously as he has engaged in Islamic Extremist sympathizing, and that he is a threat to America / Americans has been there for all to see even BEFORE he was elected. Gates’ ‘revelations’ now only confirm what we all knew and will NOT sway any of the blind / indoctrinated Obama rear-kissers.
— As John Wayne said, “You can’t fix stupid.”

Worthy of Note is Obama’s / the White House’s response: Obama and the White House is not even TRYING to deny Obama’s callousness, his lack of concern for the military or his & Hillary’s willingness to use and sacrifice the military as political pawns. He is not trying to deny his complete inability to lead or his lack of leadership ability. His/Their only reaction has been to half-heartedly defend Biden, attempting to paint him anything other than the idiot he is. (This is probably due to prodding from Biden who has idiotic visions of grandeur – running for the Presidency in 2016.)

Speaking of ‘stupid’, experts have outlined Biden’s positions on everything from the 1st Gulf War to the Surge to the OBL Raid…and YEAH, Biden was wrong / made the absolute wrong call on every one of them. So Gates’ remark about how Biden has been wrong about every National Security or Military issue in the last 40 years is pretty much SPOT ON!

Let’s face it, everyone knows Biden is a the ‘town’ (‘national’) idiot. This is the guy who asked his wheel-chair-bound friend to STAND UP AND TAKE A BOW at one of his election campaign speeches, who called Obama ‘a clean articulate black man’ and said it was about time one ran for office. He is the moron who told Americans if they were frightened in their homes to just go out on the balcony and fire your gun up in the air to scare off anyone out there OR to just SHOOT THROUGH THE DOOR if anyone is trying to get into your house – BOTH WHICH ARE COMPLETELY ILLEGAL!

Again, none of this is new news to nayone in this country, so Gates’ comments will have little to no impact. Die-hard Liberals will continue to blindly defend him as a ‘genius’ and the rest of us will shake our heads at ‘Crazy Joe’.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Nothing much will come of this, not because it isn’t a major scandal for a President to put troops in peril for political purposes, but because America lacks the intelligence and willpower to deal with the unprecedented con man cancer who is now in power.

Basilsbest on January 9, 2014 at 2:46 PM

The media will defuse this little bomb.

80% of the populace have no idea who Bob Gates is or even that we are at war.

PattyJ on January 9, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Obama WANTED a high body count to give him footing to go after Americans right to carry guns so he authorized thousands of weapons and grenades to be given to Mexican Drug Cartels. He then invited (and USED) the President of Mexcio to come to the US to lecture our citizens on the consequences of OUR reckless personal ownership of weapons and OUR running guns across the border. Over 300 Mexicans, and counting, – HIS people – have been killed by the weapons the man who invited him to the US to speak gave them!

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Obama did not believe in the Surge, did not believe it would work, and I suggest he secretly hoped it would fail, that instead of success there would be a dramatic increase in the US Military Body Count so he would have an argument to withdraw troops faster and a greater issue with which he could bash Bush. This wasn’t ‘his’ war, after all.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:03 PM

After 9/11/01 Bush declared the US would never let terrorists have a Safe haven anywhere in the world.

Obama did not believe or agree with THIS ‘policy’, either. He and his administration actually ordered the US Military to aid the very same Al Qaeda that perpetrated 9/11/01 to take over Libya. These Libyan Al Qaeda had been recuiting jihadists for years out of NE Libya to go to Afghanistan and Iraq to KILL AMERICAN MILITARY MEMBERS…and NOW Obama was ordering our troops to not only help them establish a ‘Safe Haven’…but to give them THEIR OWN NATION! Obama had/has no regard for the Americans killed on 9/11/01 or the trrops killed since by Al Qaeda – his only priority was helping them take over their own country.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Obama also injected himself into Egyptian politics, forcing elections to be held early rather than on time after Mubarak was ousted, which he also helped accomplish. The moving up of this timeline only benefitted the Muslim Brotherhood, another offically known Terrorist organization. Obama helped yet another terrorist organization take over their own government, an ‘ally’ at that. He sought to give them billions of weapons, and after the Egyptian military moved to kick the terrorists out of power Obama ordered all military weapons sales/deliveries to stop, to punish the Egyptian military from attempting to take their nation back from terrorists. Obama even brought members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were on the ‘No Fly’ List to Washington to attend Cabinet Meetings in the White House. It is also believed that Hillary/Obama agreed to allow the Cairo embassy to be overrun on 9/11/11, the day 20 Embassies throughout the Middle east was overrun in a Middle East-wide protest against the US. Reports say a rival terrorist group threatened to undermine the Brotherhood by calling them a ‘US Puppet’ if the Brotherhood did not allow them to attack the Cairo Embassy. Reports say the Brotherhood agreed as long as no US personnel were killed, a deal the US approved to help the Brotherhood keep / save ‘face’. Several days before the attack the Marine detachment guarding the embassy were ordered NOT to carry live ammo on 9/11/11…which they were not when it was overrun. If true, that means Obama/Hillary conspired with terrorists to allow Americans be in danger and US territory be overrun!

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:14 PM

After helping Al Qaeda take over Libya, according to HILLARY, Obama issued the Libyan Foreign Policy called ‘Low Profile’, wanting to maintain a low US profile as Al Qaeda assumed power. (Assuming a low profile was key for the CIA to run guns to Syrian Jihadists as well from Benghazi.) So, Hillary & Obama HIRED AN AL QAEDA-ASSOCIATED MILITIA, apprxo 3 hours from the Benghazi compound, to protect Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans there. 1 month before the final fatal attack the militia notified the State Department they would not protect Stevens any longer. Before the final fatal attack the Benghazi compound was attacked TWICE, the last attack leaving a 4 foot hole in the wall. Time and again Stevens requested additional security – every time tat request was DENIED. To bring in American / additional security would risk blowing the CIA gun running op. Before the compound was destroyed INTEL warned of an Al Qaeda call for retaliation to a drone attack that killed a Libyan Al Qaeda member. The Libyan President warned the US. These warnings were known and ignored – even Stevens warned a 3rd attack would result in his death. Again he requested additional security and again it was denied.

Everyone knows the rest. The Benghazi compound was attacked for 12 hours, response temas were forbidden to go, the Africom Commander – General Ham – was relieved of command for voicing his intent to ignore the stand down order. Americans were betrayed and sacrificed. The CIA’s report calling it a terrorist attack was modified 12 times by the WH & State Department – Obama & Hillary – before being released, and Obama & Hillary waged a coordinated Cover Up by calling it all about a video.

Total disregard for American life, his priority being his Al Qaeda brethrenand running guns to Syrian jihadists.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:22 PM

On 9 August 2011 a Chinook helicopter went down in Afghanistan killing 38 people, to include 25 members of the now-famous SEAL Team 6, whose Identity Joe Biden released to the worl dwhen he leaked classified details of the OBL raid to the media after the raid.

The Obama administration, ‘the most transparent administration evuh’, refuses to talk to the families of the victims of Benghazi or this fatal attack. The families have filed a multi-million dollar law suit, primarily to get answers Obama refuses to give. Some experts believe this attack was a set-up and that the government may have been involved in ‘serving these guys up to be killed’. Taliban units ambushed the helicopter as it arrived at a classified Landing Zone, attacking from 3 sides. Against standard procedure which calls for air support/cover on missions this large no air cover was authorized. Minutes before the helicopter took off 7 Afghan Spec Ops troops were taken off the mission and replaced by 7 foreign national fighters who were never added to the flight manifest – there are no records of who they were. Offical reports say a single shoulder-launched missile was fired from the ground, struck the inside of the helicopter, causing it to burst into flames and crash. Experts do not believe the ‘lucky shot’ scenario and believe more probably the late additions to the flight may have been suicide bombers. The Obama administration refuses to comment and refuses still to meet with family members.

Once again Americans are murdered under unusual circmstances while Obama & his administration hunkers down to ensure the cover-up survives!

Total disregard for military & their families….mre dead American soldiers.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:33 PM

…and Harry Reid calls military pensions, V.A. Disability, PTSD & Wounded Warrior Project funding ‘low hanging fruit’ regarding budget cuts. Basicly Reid was calling this ‘honor debt’ to our military the easiest, ‘no-brainer’ options from which to cut budget spending…while refusing to cut such projects / spending as the multi-million dollar study of attractiveness of fruit flies and over $6 billion in IRS tax credits for ILLEGALS (criminals).

Liberals have always hated the military, been fearful & suspicious of them – especially since the vast majority are Conservatives, have used the military as pawns, and have always sought to cut military spending before touching any of their precious pork projects designed to keep them in office. Obama’s disdain and obvious contempt for the military surpasses any and all every shown by any US President…and perhaps every US President COMBINED.

I will credit this to Obama’s self-professed tutoring from his America-hating Anti-Colonialist Muslim father, Communist Frank Marshall Davis, his study of Socialist Saul Alynski – who he quoted during his inauguration address, and his decades of mentoring by racist hate-spewing anti-American ‘pastor’ Jeremiah Wright.

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM

(Of course, I expect some, if not all, of these comments to be pulled – as some have been in the past. I understand and would hate for the Drudge Report to be targeted by this administration/Obama.)

easyt65 on January 9, 2014 at 3:45 PM

no worries easyt65, I’ve been copying and pasting. Thanks for the memories.

DanMan on January 9, 2014 at 4:04 PM

I heard Tom Hanks fell off a cliff.

John the Libertarian on January 9, 2014 at 12:22 PM

It’s an urban legend that got started yesterday.

Ward Cleaver on January 9, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Ed, you and every single commenter on this thread is wrong. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!!!!!!!(heh heh heh) Seriously, this is a book by an Washington DC insider, for other Washington DC insiders. Gates last book was a view, of his service inside the corridors of power in Washington DC. This latest book of his, should be looked at more like version 2, revised. This book is a warning to all about those who would save them, and the hidden truths they carry. To sum up Gates:”Beware of the Man on a White Horse.” And old truth, but one which needs to be heard again,and again.

flackcatcher on January 9, 2014 at 6:46 PM