Robert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy

Robert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy
© Getty

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “extreme polarization” in the U.S. is currently the greatest threat to democracy in America.

Gates, during an interview with Anderson Cooper for “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, specifically pointed to the area of Washington, D.C., where the White House and Capitol Hill are located.

“The greatest threat is found within the two square miles that encompass the White House and the Capitol Building,” Gates told Cooper.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gates served as Defense secretary from 2006 until 2011, leading the Pentagon during some of the U.S.’s military involvement in Afghanistan under former presidents George W. Bush and Obama, and also headed the CIA between 1991 and 1993.

Asked about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and an attempt by a number of GOP lawmakers to rewrite the events of that day, Gates told Cooper that society “seems to be coming unhinged,” adding that he has “never seen so much hatred” in the country.

“I don't understand, um, such a denial. And these same people who were terrified on January 6th, and whose lives were in danger, to now basically say, ‘Well, these are just your normal tourists.’ The whole of our society seems to be coming unhinged. And there's just — I've never seen so much hatred,” he said.

Gates also weighed in on former President Trump's unfounded claim that the 2020 election was stolen, contending that pushing such a theory underscores China’s claims about the U.S.

“It seems to me that it underscores the theme that China is sounding around the world that the United States political system doesn't work, and that the United States is a declining power,” Gates said.

Asked by Cooper if he thinks Trump will wage another presidential bid in the future, Gates said “I hope not,” arguing that the former president “disdains institutions” and took measures to weaken them.

“I am a strong believer in institutions whether it's, um, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the State Department, the Justice Department, the FBI. He disdains institutions, and, and I think he did a lot to weaken institutions,” Gates said.

Cooper noted that the former Defense secretary, who identifies as a Republican, previously called Trump a “thin skinned, temperamental, shoot from the hip and lip, uninformed commander in chief,” and said he was “too great a risk for America.”

“I would not edit that at all,” Gates told Cooper.

The ex-CIA director also discussed the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling Cooper that the mission “probably did not need to have turned out that way.”

He pinned the blame on both President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE and Trump, contending that Trump had ample time to plan the evacuation, and that Biden should have started the pullout in April when he announced plans for the complete withdrawal.