White House defends Biden against Gates criticism
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk during a photo-op as they meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is bristling over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' new memoir accusing President Barack Obama of showing too little enthusiasm for the U.S. war mission in Afghanistan and sharply criticizing Vice President Joe Biden's foreign policy instincts.
In a book set for release next week by the publishing house Knopf, Gates writes that Biden is "a man of integrity," but also a political figure who has been "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."
Gates, a Republican, also slammed the National Security Council under Obama's watch. The Republican cited what he called the "controlling nature" of the White House, writing that Obama's national security team "took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that Gates' account of confrontations at the White House over Afghanistan policy "is hardly news."
Such tell-all books are not new to Washington and they're woven into the city's cultural fabric. In the inside-the-Beltway political culture, they burst into view, make a splash on TV, online and in the press and quickly fade. But in the case of the Gates book, the White House chose to speak out quickly and sharply.
The National Security Council issued a statement late Tuesday asserting that Obama relies on Biden's "good counsel" every day and considers him "one of the leading statesmen of his time." Not only that, the White House allowed news organization representatives to photograph Obama and Biden sitting together Wednesday at their weekly private luncheon.
The book entitled: "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War," by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates is seen in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. The White House is bristling over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' new memoir accusing President Barack Obama of showing too little enthusiasm for the U.S. war mission in Afghanistan and sharply criticizing Vice President Joe Biden's foreign policy instincts. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Biden spoke animatedly to Obama as photographers were briefly escorted in to the private dining room just off the Oval Office. It was another sign that the president was not putting any distance between himself and Biden, though Carney said that the rare photo opportunity was not linked to the revelations in Gates' book.
Former senior White House adviser David Axelrod said he was surprised when he heard about Gates' book. "He (Gates) always indicated he had a good working relationship with the president," Axelrod said on NBC's "Today" show. And Bill Daley, who was Obama's chief of staff during Gates' tenure, said on CBS that the decision to publish the book while Obama was still president and a war still underway was "a disservice."