CBS’s Bob Scheiffer had some harsh words for former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on his Sunday show Face the Nation surrounding the release of Gates’ new memoir “Duty.”
Schieffer fretted over whether or not Gates should have released his memoir before President Obama left office. He had "problems" with it. The CBS host complained that, "Making the criticism at this point while the president is still a sitting president, I was very surprised that Bob Gates did that."
Schieffer then brought up the issue of “loyalty” regarding the former Defense Secretary’s new book, and suggested that by releasing the book now, Gates wasn’t being loyal to the presidency:
I think there's a certain loyalty to the presidency. And I think when you make it harder for a president while he is still in office I think -- I have problems with that.
Strangely, Schieffer did not share such sentiments in 2008, when Scott McClellan, former Press Secretary to George W. Bush, published a harsh critique of Bush while he was still in office. As my colleague Kyle Drennen noted at the time, Schieffer never questioned McClellan’s loyalty to the presidency by releasing his book at that time, but instead thought that:
When an insider makes a disclosure, those that are still on the inside start to raise questions about motivations. But I think you have to look at what he said, these are some very serious allegations.
Later on in the very same 2008 broadcast, Schieffer argued that, “now you have this really inside insider saying that, you know, what a lot of people suspected, what a lot of critics said, well it was absolutely true.”
One would think that if Schieffer were truly concerned about “loyalty to the president” he would have condemned the timing of McClellan’s book, much like he did with the Gates memoir. Perhaps its only disloyal for someone to criticize a Democrat while he’s in office, but when a Republican criticizes a sitting Republican president its perfectly acceptable.
Schieffer’s double standard here is obvious but I highly doubt the veteran CBS reporter even remembers his praise for the McClellan book, something he has chosen not to do with a bipartisan Secretary of Defense like Robert Gates.
See relevant transcript below.
CBS Face the Nation
January 19, 2014
11:13 a.m. Eastern
BOB SCHEIFFER: Ruth, I though you had a really interesting column and you talk about the two kinds of loyalty. Talking about Bob Gates and then talking about this whole issue. Where did you come down on the president's speech?
RUTH MARCUS: On the president's speech I came down slightly more positive I think in terms of the impact than David did. I would call it significant but incomplete. But with an emphasis on the significant. I think the biggest change is something that Mike Morell mentioned that the president has now said, we will have judges, not bureaucrats at NSA no matter how well meaning they are, there’s 22 folks at NSA now who have the authority to query this database. But they have a self-interest they see things from a particular perspective. I'd rather have federal judges helping oversee and make this decision that is a huge change and I think it's a very important one.
SCHIEFFER: And tell me a little bit about that -- what you had to say about bob Gates.
MARCUS: Well, I wrote a little bit about loyalty and one of my big concerns, and look, all of us in the news gathering business love inside information so it’s a little churlish of us to be criticizing people who give us inside information. That said, I do think particularly with Secretary Gates a Republican brought into Democratic administration not in a sideline position, but in a really critical policy making job. To then turn around and write his memoirs while the president is still in office, really, if I were a president selecting a cabinet in the future, would give me pause about selecting somebody from the opposite party. Loyalty is an under appreciated virtue in Washington these days.
SCHIEFFER: I tell you what I found interesting about it. Much of the criticism that Mr. Gates made, I happen to agree with. But I thought making the criticism at this point while the president is still a sitting president, I was very surprised that Bob Gates did that. Because either you talk about loyalty, I think there's a certain loyalty to the presidency. And I think when you make it harder for a president while he is still in office I think -- I have problems with that. If he’d have said it after the president left office but maybe he thought it was important enough that it ought to be said now and obviously he did.