Monday, September 19, 2016

Former Defense Secretary Gates calls Trump "willfully ignorant about the rest of the world"

Robert Gates is a highly respected Republican, who earned a PhD in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.  He served for 26 years in the the National Security Council and as head of the CIA, before being appointed in 2006 by George W. Bush to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.   President Barack Obama asked him to continue in the position in his cabinet, and he did until his retirement in 2011.   He is considered by many as the best Defense Secretary of the post World War II era.   As a Republican in a Democratic administration, his views were highly respected, and he worked closely with Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.   They sometime agreed and sometimes disagreed.

His op-ed article in Friday's Wall Street Journal is the subject of much discussion.   Here is CNN reporter Eugene Scott's summary.

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"Robert Gates criticized both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on their preparedness to handle US foreign policy -- but the former defense secretary reserved his harshest language for the Republican nominee. . . .  When it comes to credibility problems, . . . 'Trump is in a league of his own. . . . The world we confront is too perilous and too complex to have as president a man who believes he, and he alone, has all the answers and has no need to listen to anyone,' Gates wrote.  'A thin-skinned, temperamental, shoot-from-the-hip and lip, uninformed commander in chief is too great a risk for America.'

"Gates called Trump too 'willfully ignorant about the rest of the world' to be commander in chief. . . .  At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform,' Gates wrote.  'He is unqualified and unfit to be commander in chief.'

"Despite his harsh criticism of Trump, Gates wrote that he remains an undecided voter.  He criticized Clinton for advocating 'ill-fated regime change in Libya' and her shifting positions on the Iraq War and US trade agreements.

"'Mrs. Clinton has ruled out putting U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria 'ever again,' he wrote. 'That is a politically driven categorical declaration of a sort no president (or candidate) should make, and it raises the question whether she would pull out the 5,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. She has expressed no new ideas to deal with the boiling caldron that is today's Middle East.'  But, he wrote, Clinton can still earn his vote.

""Mrs. Clinton has time before the election to address forthrightly her trustworthiness, to reassure people about her judgment, to demonstrate her willingness to stake out one or more positions on national security at odds with her party's conventional wisdom, and to speak beyond generalities about how she would deal with China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, the Middle East -- and international trade,' he wrote. 'Whether and how she addresses these issues will, I believe, affect how many people vote -- including me.'

"Gates, who worked for eight presidents for more than 50 years, said the best commanders in chief hire advisers who aren't afraid to contradict their boss.

"'All of the presidents I served were strong personalities with strongly held views about the world,' he said.  'But each surrounded himself with independent-minded, knowledgeable and experienced advisers who would tell the president what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear.  Sometimes presidents would take their advice, sometimes not. But they always listened,' Gates wrote."
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Robert Gates is as close as they come to a truly bipartisan, experienced public servant who is respected by even those who may disagree with him on some issues, as did Hillary Clinton from time to time.   But they also agreed on others.    His is perhaps the most important support that Hillary Clinton could hope for that she doesn't already have.   I hope she will be able to earn his vote.

And Trump's response?   He said of Gates:  "He’s a mess, so he goes out and he says negative things about me. I never met him, I never talked to him. Believe me, I am so much better at what he’s doing than he is, you won’t even believe it. . . .  A nasty guy;  probably has a problem we don't know about."

That comment says a lot about the speaker . . . and nothing about the subject of the comment.


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