It didn't take five minutes for Robert Gates to begin undermining his soon to be President.

at his first news conference since Mr. Obama said he would keep Mr. Gates on at the Pentagon, the defense secretary did not explicitly endorse Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge to withdraw all combat troops within 16 months.

Instead, Mr. Gates said he supported the broad outlines of Mr. Obama’s Iraq strategy and gave indications that he and the president-elect could reach common ground on troop withdrawals over the next year. At the least, Mr. Gates suggested that he and Mr. Obama were in closer alignment on Iraq policy than the heated language of the presidential campaign suggested.

Reacting to Mr. Obama’s comments on Monday that signaled flexibility in the president-elect’s troop withdrawal plans — Mr. Obama said he still wanted combat troops out within 16 months but would listen to the recommendations of his commanders — Mr. Gates said, "I think that’s an agreeable approach."

Now please no disingenuous defense that Gates is agreeing with Obama here. This is cherry picking - Gates is undermining Obama's repeatedly stated objective of a 16 month withdrawal and highlighting that Obama left wiggle room. Not only is the emphasis a contradiction to a policy Obama repeated yesterday but further he gave "indication that they could reach common ground." That doesn't sound like a guy simply taking orders and saying yes sir!

Oh and where else have I heard that line about listening to "commanders on the ground". Oh yeah, that was the McCain campaign's position.

Rather than the "artificial and arbitrary timetable" Mr. Obama has proposed, an American withdrawal should be contingent upon two things, Mr. Scheuemann said: "the advice of our military commanders and conditions on the ground,"

Now Gates immediate backstab should really come as no surprise. For surprises are his specialty. You see there is strong evidence that as a member of Jimmy Carter's national security council he helped sabotage Carter's re-election effort. The phrase "October Surprise" refers to Carter's efforts to secure release of the US Embassy Hostages that had been held by Iran for more than year. However that release was delayed until "coincidentally" the very day that Ronald Reagan took office as President of the United States. In the face of gathering evidence that this coincidence was in fact a Republican dirty trick a congressional task force was formed which obtained some shocking Russian Intelligence.

To the shock of the Task Force, the six-page Russian report stated, as fact, that Casey, Bush, CIA officials and other Republicans had met secretly with Iranian officials in Europe during the 1980 presidential campaign...

At the Paris meeting in October 1980, "R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter and former CIA Director George Bush also took part," the Russian report said. "In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran."

I could go on and on about all the other reasons Gates is a lousy pick: His poor management of the war in Afghanistan, his efforts to tie Obama's hands on deploying a missile defense that doesn't work, his exaggerating the soviet threat for political reasons when he was Deputy director of the CIA and his failure to anticipate the collapse of the soviet union as CIA Director. Or I could point out that his supposedly wonderful positions on cleaning up the Pentagon like killing the F-22 are actually the same stated positions of Rumsfeld in 2001.

But here's the bottom line: Go ahead and defend Obama's strategy of using Gates as a vehicle for his ends (despite the already apparent problems) but don't defend Gates. The man is simply awful.

Disclaimer: I don't like the Gates pick and think it sends a signal of weakness that will embolden obstructionists primarily on the hawkish side of the Democratic party, but I haven't lost any enthusiasm for Obama or his presidency, and I certainly don't feel betrayed. I just think that Obama is not infallible.

Originally posted to Lcohen on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 08:46 AM PST.

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