5 things the war Cabinet says about Obama

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

    71,617 Messages
    14,143 Likes Received
    Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen – Mon Dec 1, 9:18 am ET

    President-elect Obama made official the worst-kept secret in Washington this morning: that his national security team will be headlined by a bitter political rival (Clinton) and a member of President Bush’s war cabinet (Gates).

    Beyond the obvious symbolism, however, Monday’s moves also offer some important evidence on the best-kept secret of the past two years: how will a President Obama actually govern in these troubled times?

    The parlor game of who gets what job is largely over, save a few of the less prestigious cabinet gigs. Here is what today’s announcement – combined with the unveiling of his top White House staff and economic team – tell us about the 44th president as he prepares to take over.

    • He is an intellectual, who is more impressed by academic and governing credentials than familiarity and loyalty.

    New York Times columnist David Brooks nailed it recently when he called the emerging cabinet a “valedictocracy”: a team of the nation’s first-in-class Ivy League elites. He meant it as a compliment. He’s not alone: it’s hard to find Republicans who don’t express admiration (at least in private) for the emerging Obama team.

    Of the 18 top appointments announced so far, 12 have degrees from Ivy League institutions, Stanford or MIT. Susan Rice was a Rhodes Scholar; Larry Summers was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history and Greg Craig, the top White House lawyer, attended Exeter, Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.

    Few of the early picks could be considered Obama loyalists. Hillary Rodham Clinton thought she would be banished to the outer reaches of Obama’s world. Now, she’s secretary of state. Robert Gates thought he was headed for retirement. Now, he will run war policy for anti-war Obama. The victor has proved to be anything but vindictive.

    There could be a cost to having so many high achievers around the same table. Bush’s war Cabinet was also praised for its experience and gravitas, but wound up being a dysfunctional snake pit.

    • He is willing to take big risks.

    His economic and national-security teams are getting packed with huge personalities who see themselves as architects, not assembly-line workers. The potential for big clashes in tough times is high. But so is the potential for big results.

    Hillary Clinton could be a fabulous world diplomat, considering her familiarity with leaders and global problems. She could also be a disaster if the Clinton family’s penchant for personal and political dramas distract the Obama presidency. Gates could be the perfect man to end the Iraq war: A Bush appointee with strong ties to the GOP establishment. Or he could clash with the new, outsized personalities around him. And don’t forget: Joe Biden is vice president and deference isn’t his specialty.

    Ego management will also be a necessity on the economic team. Lawrence Summers, who will be the White House economic adviser, was so harshly critical of colleagues when he was Clinton’s Treasury secretary that the president himself once urged him to stay respectful of colleagues at a cabinet meeting, Democrats recalled. Tim Geithner, the new Treasury secretary, worked under Summers in the Clinton years. Now it’s Geithner who’ll be the public face of the economic team - and former colleagues are imagining a delicate dance between the headstrong mentor and his former protégé. .

    • He is very focused on governing—and prefers persuasion to force.

    Obama inherits what every president dreams of: a Congress controlled by his party and with strong majorities. Unlike Bush, he seems to genuinely care what they think.

    Many Republicans resented the way Bush simply dismissed the power and input of Congress. He saw his victories as mandates to implement his agenda and was dismissive of naysayers in either party. Obama seems to making a different calculation: Democrats can win big if they proceed with something resembling a parliamentary approach to governance.

    Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chief of staff, specializes in legislative strategy. He has been knee-deep in economic discussions with Capitol Hill leaders for weeks – and his position of great power was comforting to Hill veterans. He has even met with Senate Republicans.

    The choice of former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services sends a powerful signal that Obama wants health care to clear the highest hurdle -- the Senate. In fact, his team looks like a high-powered meeting on the Hill – Emanuel, Daschle, Biden and Pete Rouse, who was Obama’s chief of staff in the Senate and will be a senior adviser in the West Wing.

    • He isn’t so disdainful of the “Washington insiders” after all

    Much of the media focus has been on how Obama has surrounded himself with “rivals” or “moderates.” But from one perspective what’s most surprising about them is how unsurprising they are—they are a roster of the Democratic establishment.

    It is clear now the “change” Obama will bring to Washington will center around his personal style and values, not the cast of characters by his side. In fact, it is easy to envision a President-elect Hillary Clinton making many of the same picks.

    Obama has basically plucked the government-in-waiting that got its start under Bill Clinton, sharpened its thinking at think tanks such as the Center for American Progress and been involved in virtually every policy debate since.

    Their bonds, for now, matter more than any minor differences of governing emphasis.
    Indeed, many of the old Democratic fault lines matter less now that both wings of the party agree the government needs to spend more in the near-term to help the economy and that the military should have a carefully modulated exit strategy from Iraq.

    Of course the Democrats’ intramural debates could get interesting again once the Obama team gets focused on specific questions: How much (on spending) and how fast (on Iraq)?

    • He is willing to jettison campaign promises to suit the political landscape

    Every president does it, but Obama is breaking (or at least bending) a stack of promises even before he takes office.

    His staff has spread the word that he will not immediately push his plan to raise taxes on the rich by repealing the Bush tax cuts. Many Democrats predict he will hit the brakes on the movement to make it easier to force unionization of the workplace – a core demand of his most loyal supporters that could get a lower priority as he scrambles to head off a depression. And Obama has signaled that liberal dreams like the repeal of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy on gays in the military will take a back seat to more practical elements of his agenda aimed at helping struggling middle-class families.

    Remember his assault on lobbyists? That has quieted, too. He has put lobbyists in prime positions on transition teams – and shown little interest in really clamping down on their role in this town.

    In part, his shifts show that he can read the election returns, and has advisers who are already thinking ahead to 2012. (His first domestic trip as president-elect will be on Tuesday to swing state Pennsylvania.) America isn’t a 50-50 nation in 2008. But a 53-46 nation – the final percentages for Obama and McCain on Election Day – means that the new president will stay focused on the political and ideological center. If he tries to move that center in a leftward direction, it will be in a slow and careful fashion.

  2. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods Zone Supporter

    5,887 Messages
    1,039 Likes Received
    I'm not a huge fan of Katrina Vanden Heuvel (note her leniency toward Clinton) but she does provide another perspective on the topic of the thread.

    Robert Gates: Wrong Man for the Job
    The Nation

    Barack Obama not only had the good judgment to oppose the war in Iraq but , as he told us earlier this year, "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." So it is troubling that a man of such good judgment has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense--and assembled a national security team of such narrow bandwidth. It is true that President Obama will set the policy. But this team makes it more difficult to seize the extraordinary opportunity Obama's election has offered to reengage the world and reset America's priorities. Maybe being right about the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history doesn't mean much inside the Beltway? How else to explain that not a single top member of Obama's foreign policy/national security team opposed the war--or the dubious claims leading up to it?

    The appointment of Hillary Clinton, who failed to oppose the war, has worried many. But I am more concerned about Gates. I spent the holiday weekend reading many of the speeches Hillary Clinton gave in her trips abroad as First Lady, especially those delivered at the UN Beijing Women's Conference and the Vital Voices Conferences, and I believe she will carve out an important role as Secretary of State through elevating women's (and girl's) rights as human rights. As she said in Belfast in 1998, "Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights." That is not to diminish her hawkish record on several issues, but as head of State she is in a position to put diplomacy back at the center of US foreign policy role--and reduce the Pentagon's.

    It's the appointment of Gates which has a dispiriting, stay-the-course feel to it. Some will argue, and I've engaged in my fair share of such arguments, that Gates will simply be carrying out Obama's policies and vision. And a look at history shows that other great reform Presidents--Lincoln and Roosevelt--brought people into their cabinets who were old Washington hands or people they believed to be effective managers. Like Obama, they confronted historic challenges that compelled (and enabled) them to make fundamental change. But Gates will undoubtedly help to shape policy and determine which issues are given priority. And while Gates has denounced "the gutting" of America's "soft power," he has been vocally opposed to Obama's Iraq withdrawal plan. And at a time when people like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz are calling for steps toward a world free of nuclear weapons (a position Obama has adopted), Gates has been calling for a new generation of nuclear weapons.

    For Obama, who's said he wants to be challenged by his advisors, wouldn't it have made sense to include at least one person on the foreign policy/national security team who would challenge him with some new and fresh thinking about security in the 21st century? Isn't the idea of a broader bandwidth of ideas also at the heart of this ballyhooed "team of rivals" stuff?

    Powerful establishment voices have been quick to praise the continuity, expertise and competence of Obama's team. But if President-elect Obama is really serious about changing the global perception of the US--not just in Paris, London, Tokyo and Berlin but in the Middle East, the global South and the developing world--he would worry less about reassuring establishment stakeholders and the representatives of the tried, the true and the failed, and make some appointments that represent some genuinely new departures and new directions. Instead, as one longtime observer of US-Russian relations reminded me the other day, in Gates, a veteran Cold Warrior, you have "an establishment figure with the longest institutional involvement in our failed Russia policies of anyone in DC."

    And with all the talk about the importance of foreign policy experience, why is there so little attention paid to the quality of that experience? (Let's not forget, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney had quite a bit of Washington experience.) What we need after eight ruinous years is experience informed by good judgment. What is gained by bringing in people who traffic in conventional wisdom and who have shown the kind of foreign policy timidity that acquiesced to disasters like the Iraq war?

    Obama may believe that Gates will give him the cover and continuity he needs to carry out his planned withdrawal from Iraq. But so could many others, including Republicans like Chuck Hagel who, at least, opposed the Iraq war. By keeping Gates on Obama worsens the Democratic image on national security--- sending the message that even Democrats agree that Democrats can't run the military. And even more troubling for our future security, Gates has sounded ominous notes about how more US troops can pacify Afghanistan. Speaking only days after a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the US was caught in a "downward spiral" there, Gates asserted that there is "no reason to be defeatist or underestimate the opportunity to be successful in the long run." Extricating the US from one disastrous war to head into another will drain resources needed to fulfill Obama's hopes and promises for economic growth, health care, energy independence and crowd out other international initiatives.

    Of course, Obama still has an opportunity to change the mindset that got us into Iraq and, more important, he has a popular mandate to challenge and change failed policies and craft a smarter security policy for this century. But he's sure making his work tougher by bringing people like Robert Gates on board.
  3. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods Zone Supporter

    5,887 Messages
    1,039 Likes Received
    That's going to fail to impress many posters here who will see it more as a fault than a virtue.

    She can be dismissed as SoS, not so as a Senator. Quite possibly a brilliant move if the object was to remove a potential rival from the Senate. She doesn't thrill me as SoS.

    Lack of internal cohesion and unity was a problem that apparently plagued the Carter presidency. Let's hope we don't see a repeat.

    This will be a significant departure from the current administration which has been roundly criticized from both sides of the aisle for its poor relations and heavy-handed interactions with Congress.

    Certainly a little more cynical and pragmatic than the naive idealist caricatured by his political opponents.
  4. ZB9

    ZB9 Active Member

    1,036 Messages
    8 Likes Received
    yea and only Democrats go to Ivy league schools [/sarcasm]
  5. theogt

    theogt Surrealist Zone Supporter

    45,341 Messages
    3,780 Likes Received
    That's one helluva education, but he still got shafted by his parents.
  6. bbgun

    bbgun Benched

    27,868 Messages
    0 Likes Received
    Finally, a Cabinet that looks like [strike]America[/strike] Cambridge. Can't believe I once called this guy an elitist snob. He should sue me for defamation.
  7. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

    43,820 Messages
    3,379 Likes Received
    I HOPE he is a lot more cynical and pragmatic then he appeared in the campaign or its a disaster for the country.
  8. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods Zone Supporter

    5,887 Messages
    1,039 Likes Received
    Old Mother Jones article on Gates:

    CIA Veteran: How Robert Gates Cooked the Intelligence

    An interview with the most interesting witness senators won't hear from this week.

    Daniel Schulman"
    December 04 2006

    Intelligence cherry-picked for ideological purposes; the claims of a single, unreliable source treated as fact and stovepiped straight up to the White House; a National Intelligence Estimate riddled with dubious claims; efforts made to connect an enemy regime with international terrorism. Echoing the prelude to the Iraq War, these are, in fact, a sampling of the allegations directed at Robert Gates 15 years ago, when the Senate Intelligence Committee considered Gates' nomination to be the director of Central Intelligence.

    Back then, the Senate hearings on Gates — who is now President Bush's nominee for secretary of defense, and who is expected to be confirmed as early as next week — were lively, controversial, and went on for a full month. Senators heard from a variety of witnesses, including a handful of Gates' former colleagues at the CIA, who painted a damaging portrait of the nominee.

    Among them was 24-year CIA veteran Melvin Goodman, a friend and fellow Soviet buff who came up with Gates at the agency during the height of the Cold War. Goodman told the senators that Gates had helped manipulate intelligence to fit the hawkish perspective advanced by officials in the Reagan administration — in particular by seeking to link the Soviet Union with acts of terrorism, including the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. "Frankly, I worry about the signal that would be sent by returning Gates to the environment he created," Goodman testified on October 1, 1991. "I worry about the effect this would have on the standards of others back at the Central Intelligence Agency to be led by someone so lacking in vision, integrity, and courage."

    When Gates appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, he's unlikely to face the level of scrutiny he did in 1991 — when 31 Democratic Senators voted against him — or, for that matter, in 1987, when lingering questions about his role in Iran-Contra forced him to withdraw from the confirmation process altogether. Nor will senators hear from Goodman, who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for International Policy and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. When I caught up with Goodman recently, I asked him why he decided to testify against his boss — and friend — back in '91.

    Melvin Goodman: The issue was politicization for me — that is, the way that Bob Gates was taking intelligence and spinning it towards a policy purpose. My direct experience was on matters dealing with the Soviet Union and particularly the papal plot assessment of 1985, but actually intelligence was being politicized on a variety of issues dealing with Iran, Central America, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.

    Mother Jones: What was the impetus for this, in your view?

    MG: It was in part the Reagan Administration and in part Bill Casey, who was the CIA director — his views on covert action and his views on policy. For Gates his master was Bill Casey, and Casey was an extremist on various issues and went further than the administration. I think Iran-Contra was part of that.

    MJ: What kinds of incidents specifically were you concerned about?

    MG: The key, the thing that really drove me away, was the assessment on the papal plot in which Bill Casey, four years after the assassination attempt on the pope, came across a raw operational report from a Bulgarian source that was thirdhand — it referred to Soviet involvement in the papal plot. On the basis of that one raw report Casey wanted a sensitive assessment prepared that would be given only to about a half-dozen senior leaders, including the president and the vice president, and he turned to Gates, who was the DDI [deputy director for intelligence], and said, "Get this done." Gates was the one to pick the three people to do it. He had them work in secret. It was this memo that I found on the desk of one of the authors, her name was Kay Oliver. I took the memo, I Xeroxed it, and I went to my boss, Douglas MacEachin. And then I went to Gates and confronted him.

    MJ: What happened?

    MG: It got ugly. He wanted to know how I found out about it, and I told him. I admitted that I didn't have direct access to it, that I found it on someone's desk and I Xeroxed it. I admitted I was skulking around. There were rumors that things were being prepared that weren't being processed through the Office of Soviet Affairs, and I knew who the people would have been because Gates engaged in what I call "judge shopping in the courthouse." If you want something done — and that's how politicization is done — you go to someone who you think will agree with you. It's not that you order someone to do something. That's not how politicization works in an organization like the CIA, or probably any other organization for that matter. They knew who to pick.

    He said I had no right to have access to this document, it was a sensitive matter at the direction of the CIA director. I reminded him that he had testified in 1983 that the Soviets were not involved in the papal plot. He said things had changed, the evidence had changed, and he said that anyway this memo was going to be hypothetical. Of course, Gates then put a cover note on all of these memos, and his cover note made it clear that this assessment, was based on the best intelligence we'd ever collected on this subject. So much for hypothetical.

    MJ: And it was based on one source?

    MG: It was one report from one source. It was a Bulgarian source. What is really important and why the director of operations had no plan to put out this report in a piece of finished intelligence collection was because he was a GRU source — that is, [Russian] military intelligence. Of course, if the Soviets had been involved it would have been with the KGB, certainly not military intelligence. So this was a bad source, it was thirdhand, and GRU was not even the right channel. So no one took the report seriously, but Casey was in the habit of reading raw traffic. He liked to do that, and people would just gather up reports, particularly the most provocative reports because this is always what Casey was looking for.

    MJ: Why did Casey want this memo drawn up in the first place?

    MG: He wanted something to sort of undercut the détente policy of George Shultz. Secretary of State Shultz, by this point, 1985, had sort of won a bureaucratic battle within the Reagan administration. This was the first year of Reagan's second term, and Reagan was convinced that his tactics toward the Soviet Union was going nowhere and needed to be changed. This is what Shultz and people like Jack Matlock, who eventually became the ambassador to the Soviet Union, were arguing. Of course, he was coming up against the opponents, the neocons of their day, people like Casper Weinberger, the secretary of defense, and Bill Casey. With this assessment that only went to the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the head of the National Security Council — I think this was Casey's way of undercutting détente policy. And if you go to the Shultz memoir, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State, it shows his contempt for the CIA, his contempt for Bill Casey, his contempt for Bob Gates, and his confrontation with Bob Gates over the matter of flawed intelligence, corrupted intelligence, and the fact that they were misinforming the president. It is some of the strongest language I've ever seen between a policymaker and a senior CIA official.

    MJ: He basically said, "I don't trust the intelligence coming out of the agency."

    MG: "I don't trust what you do." Yeah. Something like, "If this were a business and you were part of the business, I'd go somewhere else." He made it clear that what Gates was doing, what he was responsible for, was totally objectionable.

    MJ: James Baker also had problems with Gates, if I'm not mistaken.

    MG: There is a passage in the Baker memoir that deals with the speeches Gates was giving in 1989 undercutting his policies of détente. Baker was engaged at that time at trying to engage Bush to get him back on the arms control track. Gates was trying to undercut this, with the support of his boss, General [Brent] Scowcroft, who was really far more conservative than people give him credit for. Gates was Scowcroft's deputy at this time in 1989.

    MJ: Was the papal plot memo an isolated case, would you say, or did spinning intelligence become more common at the agency?

    MG: I definitely think it did, There was the plot memo and one other very important document. This was a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in which Gates essentially prepared the intelligence case on Iran-Contra. This was to argue that the Soviet Union was trying to put a great deal of pressure on Iran, to bring Iran into the Soviet orbit, and that there were moderates in Iran who were interested in doing business with the United States and that Iran was getting out of the business of terrorism. All these issues, all these charges and conclusions, were false. There was no evidence to support any one of them. But Gates had sort of conspired with the national intelligence officer for the Middle East, Graham Fuller, to try and prepare a memo that would justify Iran-Contra. And, of course, this gets into the whole issue of what Gates knew about Iran-Contra and the fact that no one on the intelligence committee believed him in 1987 when he said he knew nothing about it.

    MJ: As you mentioned, Gates has denied having knowledge of Iran-Contra. You were at the agency during that period. Is that plausible?

    MG: Now, fortunately, we have documented evidence about what he knew and who told him what and what meetings he sat in on. He was briefed by about three different CIA officers.

    Gates denied the meetings he had with [National Security Advisor John] Poindexter, which we know he had. He met regularly with Poindexter, he met regularly with [Oliver] North, he sat in on meetings with North and Casey. I myself think the reason why Casey made Bob Gates his deputy in 1986 is he needed someone who was involved in all the operational matters of Iran-Contra as some security fence within the bureaucracy, someone who knew all of this stuff and could protect it.

    In '87 that's why Gates never got to a vote, because no one believed he was telling the truth when he said that he wasn't part of this operation and he knew nothing about it. In '91, they were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, but there were still 31 votes against Bob Gates, which is more than all of the negative votes against all of the CIA directors going back over a 59-year period.

    MJ: Back in '91, did you call the Senate Intelligence Committee, or did they call you?

    MG: I was on the verge of calling them, but before I could call them they called me and asked me to come over, which led to three separate meetings with staff. There were about 12 to 15 people in the room, including the staff director, George Tenet.

    MJ: Some of Gates' former colleagues at the agency seemed to regard him as an intimidating presence. Was that your take as well?

    MG: No, you've got to remember I knew him for 20 years. I knew him from his first day in the building. I took him to lunch that day. Our families knew each other, our children were involved in socializing. [But] there was an arrogance about him, the kind of thing you see in the bureaucracy of people who, you know, kiss up and kick down. Bob Gates was certainly one of those people.

    MJ: After Gates was confirmed in '91, did his performance at the agency do anything to change your view of him?

    MG: No, no. The issues for me were the way he exercised control over the intelligence output of the CIA. He virtually killed the Foreign Broadcasting Intelligence Service, FBIS, which was very independent-minded and sort of off the range on some issues. And Gates wanted to bring a halt to that, and he did. He didn't want controversy with the military, so he started sending areas of tactical military intelligence over to the Pentagon, got the CIA out of the business of order of battle intelligence, which is really an unfortunate setback. He weakened the research bureaus of political, military, and economic reporting. He sent a lot of imagery analysis the CIA used to do over to the Pentagon, a process that [John] Deutch completed when he came in as CIA director several years later. The military, remember, during this period was quite angry about what they considered the inept performance of the CIA around the time of Desert Storm, the intelligence failure with regard to Iraqi strategic capabilities and then the weakness of intelligence support during the war. They had been blasted by [General Norman] Schwarzkopf, and Gates called Colin Powell, the chairman of the joint chiefs, to try to get a two- and three-star general to come over to the CIA as a deputy director to further form links between the military, the Pentagon, and the CIA on intelligence matters. Of course the reason why the CIA was formed was to be independent of policy organizations. But Gates wanted to avoid these disputes. I considered him a rather weak CIA director.

    MJ: So essentially you're saying that Gates handles bureaucracy well.

    MG: I think Bob in many ways is the consummate bureaucrat, but without any ethical or moral compass. He's cautious; he knows how to protect himself; he knows which documents not to sign; he knows when to appear uninformed, whether it's with colleagues bringing him information which he sort of pretends not to know anything about, or when he goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee in '91 and says, "I don't recollect." That was about 33 different questions. He's not an innovator. He's not strategic minded. He has a very good memory. He's a workaholic. No one is going to work longer hours than Bob Gates, even at the Pentagon where it's legendary what some of these careerist colonels and generals do. Bob Gates will be in there from morning until night. He will serve his master. But his master is George W. Bush, not George Herbert Walker Bush and General Scowcroft.

    MJ: What are your specific concerns about Gates taking over as secretary of defense?

    MG: My major concerns are issues of integrity. For me, basically, the test of character is what you do when no one's looking. I don't think Bob Gates can be trusted when no one's looking. When military officers keep the Pentagon informed about how bad the situation is in Iraq, what will Gates do with this information? Is he willing to tell the president? Is he willing to give this story to the president, keeping in mind that the White House still wants to win this war and still feels in many ways that the U.S. is doing very well in Iraq? I don't think he can be trusted to encourage the Pentagon to report on all sides of the operation inside of Iraq.

    In terms of fitness, he doesn't have the skill sets that you would want for a secretary of defense. He's the kind of micromanager in the same way that Bob McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld were. And I don't think you can be a micromanager in the Pentagon, where you're talking about a $450 billion budget. I think he'll be swallowed up. He's temperamentally unsuited to delegate responsibility, which of course he's going to have to do. I think it's going to be difficult for him to solve disputes between the various services over weapons acquisition. To give Rumsfeld some credit, he was trying to reform the acquisitions process and make that more methodical. Gates doesn't have those kinds of skills.

    MJ: And then there's the issue of politicization.

    MG: Well, politicization of course would be the key issue in all of this. You know, the day he entered the CIA he was what I considered to be a realist and a centrist. And I think the longer he stayed, the more tours he took down at the White House for various National Security Council advisors to the president, the more hard-line he became. By the time he came back to be deputy director for intelligence under Casey, he was writing memos encouraging the use of military force and warning about the Soviet threat in ways that went way beyond the intelligence record. Now, of course, he'll be in a policy position. But I'd worry about his Cold War instincts. And of course the classic case of the memo he wrote to Casey encouraging the use of military force, air power against Nicaragua, which was written after the Boland Amendment [outlawing assistance to the Contras] was passed [in 1982]. He wrote this memo in December 1984 encouraging military action. This was using air power against Nicaragua. Here Gates was not only encouraging Casey in this direction, but he didn't even provide him with any warning about the fact that these laws had been passed.

    MJ: So do you think that means Gates, if confirmed, is going take a hard line on Iran and North Korea?

    MG: I'm not anticipating that. And frankly from a policy standpoint, this country is so deeply embedded in Iraq that it doesn't have options for worsening relations in any other areas. That's one of the problems with Iraq.

    MJ: Some are saying that the president's selection of Gates indicates that he is moving toward some sort of policy shift on Iraq. But you've written that the president is simply circling the wagons.

    MG: I look at this more as damage limitation than anything else, until I see some evidence. The president is still talking victory, and the vice president is still talking full-court press. I don't see any sign of a real change in policy. The incredible thing about this administration is why they did nothing for a full year while the situation worsened, certainly since February when I think you had the beginning of a civil war, which we've been in ever since.

    MJ: What do you think of the Iraq Study Group?

    MG: I think it's smoke and mirrors. [Co-chair Lee] Hamilton has never had a reputation for looking very deeply at any of the issues he's been involved in. That would be true for Iran-Contra and the 9/11 commission for that matter, where I think he did a really poor job. [Co-chair James] Baker is there to protect the reputation of the Bush family, the Bush legacy, and the president. I don't consider this operation any different from going down to Florida when he did in 2000 to secure an election victory for the president.

    MJ: Since the politicization of intelligence also became an issue during this war, do you expect Gates to face some tough questions on his role in skewing intelligence back in the '80s?

    MG: I guess I don't. I expect a few people to bring it up again for the record to make it clear. And there is sort of a delicious irony here that we went to war based on politicized intelligence and now one of the major players in terms of that world of politicization is now going to be running the Pentagon. I don't see how you can not point out his role in the past. But I don't expect many senators to go down that road. I expect a few Democrats to do it. I hope Carl Levin is one of them. I expect Dianne Feinstein to be one of them. But I don't think it will become a major issue. I expect there will probably be five or six votes against him.

    Bob is the morning-after pill. He's the one who's going to be responsible for aborting Donald Rumsfeld, and people are anxious to get him over to the Pentagon. And the people at the Pentagon are anxious to see him arrive, so he's got all that on his side.

    Daniel Schulman is an Investigative Reporter at Mother Jones.

Share This Page