Former Defense Secretary Gates: ‘At least’ Trump ‘hasn’t started any new wars’
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday offered measured support for President Trump, noting that “at least” the president hasn’t started a war and has funded the military.
Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked Gates if his assessment of Trump has changed since 2016, when he said Trump “is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country” and “temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform.”
“I would say this, Chuck. First of all, unlike his three predecessors, and I write about this in the book, at least he hasn’t started any new wars and he has robustly funded the military,” Gates responded.
Gates was appointed by former President George W. Bush and also served under former President Obama. His new book, “Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World,” will be released this week.
Gates also said he supported Trump’s “outreach” to North Korea.
“It hasn’t come to anything, but I thought that was a bold move, and everything else had failed in the previous 25 years,” he added. “But there’s also the other side of the coin in terms of some of the things he says. His treatment and words about military people and military heroes like John McCain that I admire a lot that are really troublesome.”
Gates also said Trump uses the military as a “prop” more than his predecessors in the Oval Office did.
“You know, all the presidents that I worked for liked to use the military as a prop. I think this president’s probably taken that to a new level,” Gates said. “But the military has to be very sensitive about being exploited in that way.”
His comments followed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s statement last week voicing regret for participating in Trump’s photo-op outside St. John’s Episcopal Church last week.
Gates said he thinks Milley “really wrestled” with how to respond to the situation.
“I’ve known Mark Milley for a long time, and he’s a man of great integrity, takes his responsibilities as an apolitical military officer very seriously,” Gates said. “I think the important thing was that he made the statement, made it with all sincerity, and, frankly, I think that plus his statement, written statement, to senior commanders around the world about the apolitical nature of the American military sent a powerful signal and reemphasized the importance of the military staying out of politics and, frankly, not getting used.”
Milley was photographed in uniform walking with Trump to the church shortly after protesters near the White House were forcibly cleared from Lafayette Square by federal law enforcement and National Guardsmen.
Milley said he regrets participating in the photo-op during a recorded message that aired at the graduation of the National Defense University last week.
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he said.
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