OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Gates slams Obama, Clinton, Biden, Congress

The Topline: Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had sharp words to go around in his new memoir that is critical of President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan and much more.

Gates accused Obama of having serious doubts about his military strategy in Afghanistan even as it was being implemented.

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Gates wrote that Obama was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” according to The Washington Post, which obtained an early copy of his memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

He also took aim at former Secretary of State State Hillary Clinton, saying she opposed the Iraq troop surge in 2006 for political reasons.

Gates paraphrases Clinton as saying she opposed the surge because she was going to have to face then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.

In the same meeting, Gates said Obama was “vaguely” conceding his opposition was also politically motivated, which Gates said was “as surprising as it was dismaying.”

The former Defense secretary saved perhaps his harshest assessment for Vice President Biden, however.

“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates wrote, according to The New York Times, which also obtained an early copy of the book.

Gates’s stinging comments are a major body blow for the Obama administration, which is struggling to regain its footing in Obama’s second term and trying to focus on domestic issues.

Gates was also highly critical of Congress, saying he was “more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress.”

In an excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal, Gates wrote that he frequently had the urge to stand up and quit.

“I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country,” Gates wrote.

Obama ‘disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment’: The White House immediately rebuffed the searing critique of its Afghanistan war policies — and Vice President Biden — from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"Deliberations over our policy on Afghanistan have been widely reported on over the years, and it is well known that the President has been committed to achieving the mission of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, while also ensuring that we have a clear plan for winding down the war, which will end this year," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

The White House also specifically rejected Gates's assertion that Biden was wrong on "nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

“The president disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment — from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world. President Obama relies on his good counsel every day," the White House statement said.

Former ambassador: Iraq is ‘our fight’: Republicans in Congress aren’t the only ones taking issue with Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that the resurgence of al Qaeda groups in Iraq was a fight that should be left to the Iraqis.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, said he disagreed with Kerry's recent remarks that Iraq was no longer the United States's fight.

"Given the importance of Iraq and given the association of the United States with Iraq — in particular Fallujah — this is our fight," said Jeffrey, who served in the position under the Obama administration from 2010 to 2012.

Jeffrey also said that the U.S. should send more military trainers to Iraq.

Republicans have slammed Obama and Kerry after al Qaeda affiliates overtook Fallujah over the weekend, and on Tuesday several called for more U.S. military aid and training to be sent to Iraq.

Pay-for still needed for pension repeal bill: Supporters of the push to repeal the $6 billion cut to military retirement benefits briefly thought a major bipartisan step had been taken to restore the benefits.

In the end, the lingering issue about how to offset the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is still hampering efforts to repeal the reduction for working-age military retirees.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters Tuesday that he would vote for Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s (R-N.H.) bill, before reversing course later in the day after learning that her bill offset the pension costs by preventing illegal immigrants from claiming a child tax credit.

Still, senior Democratic Senate leaders have signaled they could support a deal to repeal the military pension cuts, even as they’ve acknowledged the “pay-for” issue.

Many lawmakers are looking for the issue to get resolved in the omnibus spending bill that appropriators are trying to finalize, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted at that solution on the floor Tuesday.           

 

In Case You Missed It:

— US, Iran deny cooperating in Iraq

— Odierno: US should ‘wait and see’ in Iraq

— Negotiators make progress on omnibus

— First chemical weapons leave Syria

— Biden calls Iraqi prime minister

 

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