Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave some simple advice Thursday for how the administration can prevent leaks: “Tell everyone to put their damn pencils down.”
The comment about administration meetings came during a wide-ranging interview Thursday night at a Politico event in Washington, D.C. — the latest stop of his media tour to promote Duty, his new book about his time as secretary for President George W. Bush and President Obama. The book criticizes — and has been criticized by — a spectrum of top political officials.
Chief among those criticism is that Gates should have waited until after Obama was out of office to publish the book, but Gates defended that decision, nothing that he hasn’t been “disloyal” to the president.
“The reality is, if you talk with anybody in the administration, you’ll find I was as open in expressing my concerns directly, face to face, with the president. …What I didn’t do was be disloyal to the president by taking those concerns public, or leaking,” the former administration official said.
He added that the Pentagon approved the book, adding “none of this is new news, so I don’t think I’ve revealed anything that wasn’t already common knowledge.”
He said, when asked about Sen. Harry Reid’s assertion that he is out to “make a buck,” that he will donate a “significant” portion of the money brought in, including to organizations that support military members and veterans.
“It’s common practice on the Hill to vote on bills you haven’t read, and it’s perfectly clear that Senator Reid has not read the book,” Gates said, in a sharp response to the majority leader’s comments.
But Gates’s assertion in the book that the president had serious doubts about the mission in Afghanistan has caught widespread attention. He acknowledged that it is “one of the few” policy areas where he criticizes the president.
“It has been in his reluctance — particularly for the troops — on why success in Afghanistan is important; why their cause is just and noble; and why their sacrifice is worthwhile,” he said.
The former Defense secretary also touched on a handful of current issues and past experiences:
On his biggest pet peeve about the Obama administration: “I think what bothered me the most is the attempt to micromanage military affairs.”
On Bob Woodward, who was critical of Gates’s book: “I actually would have really liked to recruit him for CIA, because he has an extraordinary ability to get otherwise responsible adults to spill their guts to him.”
On Hillary Clinton, who Gates sidestepped questions asking if he would support if she runs for president: “My position — at this point and going forward — is that I don’t think the Democrats are actually very interested in having a Republican handicapping their 2016 race.”
On listening to members of the Obama administration criticize the Bush administration: “[Everyone in a meeting] would just be trashing the Bush administration. What a mess they had made of foreign and national security policy. What a lousy team they had and everything. [Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael] Mullen and I would just sit there and look at each other, ‘Don’t they realize we were integral members of that team. What are we invisible?’”
On military sexual assault: “It’s both a legal issue, but it is also a leadership issue. …If they find people that are negative in this”¦ they need to be sacked. Because there is nothing inside a hierarchical organization that gets people’s attention like firing a big shot.”
On North Korea: “We’re now on our third generation of Kims, and frankly I think that with each generation we have been swimming in a shallower and shallower part of the gene pool.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”