Former White House officials on Wednesday rushed to defend President Obama against scathing criticism from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
In his new memoir, Gates wrote the president did not believe in his own strategy in Afghanistan, and that for him, it was “all about getting out.”
Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley said Gates shouldn’t have released his memoir while the war in Afghanistan is still being fought.
“It’s one thing as historians look back on an administration, but in the middle of it, when you’re pursuing a war at the same time, and one that is controversial with the American people and has been very difficult on our military, I think it’s just a disservice to be very frank with you,” Daley said Wednesday on CBS’s “This Morning.”
“I understand while everyone wants to get out there and write a book and get on the circuit, but I think it’s unfortunate,” Daley said, while emphasizing he had respect for the former Defense chief.
In the coming book Duty: Memories of a Secretary at War, Gates said that some White House staff took “micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”
David Axelrod, another former White House adviser, on Wednesday said Obama was “very committed" to the mission in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think that is true” to say otherwise, Axelrod said on NBC’s “Today,” adding that it always seemed Obama and Gates had a good “working relationship.”
In the book, Gates also alleged that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama both admitted that they opposed the 2007 surge in Iraq for political reasons. In Obama’s case, Gates writes that the president “vaguely” conceded the point.
Axelrod said there was never any political discussion about his opposition to the Iraq surge, maintaining that Obama opposed the war from the beginning.
“I’m not suggesting that he made things up to sell a book, but I think the language that he used, for example on that Iraq story, was vague and it was subjective,” Axelrod said. "And there was no declaration on the president's part that he made that decision on a political basis."
The White House has already pushed back on parts of the book. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama is committed to the mission in Afghanistan and winding down the war at the end of the year. She noted deliberations about the policy had been widely reported.
“The president deeply appreciates Bob Gates' service as Secretary of Defense and his life,” the statement continued. “As has always been the case, the president welcomes differences of view among his national security team, which broaden his options and enhance our policies.”