Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 14, 2014

An honorable man's act of dishonor

(Continued)

He offers a lot of details about the contentious internal processes that led to elimination of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He quotes numerous private remarks from Obama, including what Gates remembers as the president’s concern, at one point, that if he didn’t take action, gay-rights groups “will go crazy.” Gates complains that Obama, in announcing that he would get rid of the policy, issued a “pre-emptive strike” that “irked the military — and me.”

Gates can be generous, and he praises many people with whom he worked (including Bush and Obama), but he has harsh words as well. He says that Vice President Joe Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

He complains that in the Obama administration, a “number of the new appointees, both senior and junior, seemed to lack an awareness of the world they had just entered.”

He “felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient.” He says that the White House’s decision “to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the people in the cabinet departments — in the trenches — who had actually done the work, offended Hillary Clinton as much as it did me.” He laments what he considers “the Obama White House’s distrust of the nation’s military leadership.”

Gates’ disclosures of private communications are worse than troubling, and it is unclear why he thought it would be appropriate to mount various attacks on his recent colleagues in the executive branch. Officials should generally be entitled to assume that they can speak to their colleagues in confidence, and that their colleagues won’t reveal what they said or attack them publicly, certainly not while they remain in office. In the area of national security, there is a particular risk, which is that disclosures of high-level conversations, and various statements of opinion (”distrust of military leadership”), might be affirmatively harmful to the United States.

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