Best Defense

Quote of the Day: McPeak and Prine on Robert Gates, and on the Defense Media

An interview from the San Diego Union-Tribune

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak. (Wikimedia Commons)
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Excerpt from an interview in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Merrill McPeak: That was Gates. Don’t even get me started on that.

Carl Prine: I think he might be the most overrated secretary of defense ever. I really do.

Merrill McPeak: You and I should go have a beer!

Carl Prine: Gates was a great politician…. My problem is that my peers in my industry, they loved Bob Gates. I think it’s because he flattered them. But when you look at what he did to make it better? I don’t think he did anything to make it better. He often kicked the can down the road on tough decisions.

Merrill McPeak: You’re exactly right.

Carl Prine: I wondered if he had any understanding of what power projection is. I’ve never understood the attraction of Bob Gates except for the flattery he gave to reporters. Rumsfeld never did that. Rumsfeld would call you an idiot. I respect that.

Tom’s view: This is an ahistorical assessment by both parties. Donald Rumsfeld’s mistreatment of peers and subordinates alienated the White House, the State Department, and officials in the Pentagon. He was fired by President Bush after the 2006 midterm elections because he was paying inadequate attention to Iraq and also was often paralyzingly indecisive. Robert Gates came into office knowing little about the media but determined to treat other people well, to be decisive, and to pay more attention to Iraq. That is what got him good press.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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