The secret life of Robert Gates

On the outside, he was an even-keeled, plain-speaking former college president, one who declared to Congress he hadn’t returned to Washington to be a “bump on a log.” He cleaned house at the Air Force after an embarrassing nuclear weapons scandal and, most of all, righted the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as much as any secretary of defense could.

On the inside, according to an early copy of Gates’s new memoir obtained by POLITICO, he was apparently hating every minute of it. But he kept almost everything behind the poker face he’d learned to wear during decades in the spy business. …

“The temptation to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot recurred often,” Gates writes. “All too frequently, the exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: ‘I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else.’ It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch. And it was always enjoyable to listen to three former senators — Obama, Biden and Clinton — trash-talking Congress.”