In a panel packed with Obama sycophants on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press,
lone conservative Rick Santorum was shouted down the moment he observed
that Robert Gates's new memoir showed "that the President puts domestic
politics before international concerns." Amid the wailing and gnashing
of teeth, MSNBC host Chris Matthews declared: "But that's not what the
book says. Rick, it didn't say that." [Listen to the audio]
Santorum was only allowed to speak for a total of forty-six seconds during the nearly ten-minute panel discussion of Gates's book. During Santorum's first twenty-second spot on camera, Gregory pressed him to respond to left-wing activist Michael Moore: "Here's something that he tweeted this week, 'Bob Gates in his new book says Obama appointees in the White House were, quote, suspicious of and didn't trust the military honchos. Thank God.'"
On Monday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer grilled Gates in a live interview and demanded: "As this criticism is leveled by you in the book of the commander-in-chief, the acting commander-in-chief, at a time when some 40,000 U.S. troops are in harm's way, do you think that by calling him into question at this stage it is either dangerous or dishonorable?"
Here are excerpts of the January 12 Meet the Press discussion:
DAVID GREGORY: This bombshell tell-all book by former defense secretary Robert Gates. I'm joined now by Robert Gibbs, he's the former press secretary for President Obama, who was present at the time. Former Republican presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Former congresswoman from California, now the head of the Wilson Center, Jane Harman. Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. And host of MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Mathews. Welcome to all of you....Chris Mathews, how scathing is this of Obama's leadership?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, it has a certain tone to it, but I think he's [Gates is] right in the sense that President Obama ran on the campaign to get us out of Afghanistan. That was his mission. There's nothing wrong with that. He [Gates] makes it sound like there's something wrong with that. That's tonal. The policy of this president when he came into office, when he got into office, was wind down two wars, and he did so. Now maybe what wasn't Gates's point of view, but it was Obama's.
GREGORY: It's certainly clear, Robert Gibbs, that as I'm reading the book – and I think some of the press coverage has been overwritten – he's harshly critical of the political operation, I think that would include you, political advisers to the president...
GIBBS: I think one of the things you take away, at least from the excerpts of this book, is that Bob Gates doesn't like any questions about Bob Gates, whether they're from members of Congress, whether they're from civilians in the West Wing or in the National Security Agency....The President wanted a smaller surge of troops that was limited in time to put pressure on the Afghans to have to solve their problem while we decimated and degraded Al Qaeda. That's what he decided. And incidentally, that's what Gates supported in a book that the [Washington] Post called "maddeningly self-contradictory."
GREGORY: Michael Moore, Rick Santorum, not a big fan of yours-
RICK SANTORUM: Those two words usually don't go together.
GREGORY: They don't go together, and that's why I'm putting them together. Because here's something that he tweeted this week, "Bob Gates in his new book says Obama appointees in the White House were, quote, 'suspicious' of and 'didn't trust' the military honchos. Thank God." That's what he said.
SANTORUM: Well, I – look, the larger point to this book in my opinion was the fact that the President puts domestic politics before international concerns. Everything's seen through the lens of domestic politics. That comment that was quoted about Hillary and the President about why they opposed the surge and – it is all about – from an outsider. I'm not inside. And Robert may have a very – obviously a very different perspective. From the outside, everything seems to be driven as to "How can we pull things back to domestic politics?" and not about trying to solve-
[UPROAR FROM THE REST OF THE PANEL]
MATTHEWS: But that's not what the book says. Rick, it didn't say that.
GREGORY: Go ahead, Jeffrey, go ahead.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I just have to – I have to issue a small correction. I just read the book. He doesn't say that about the President. He says politics does come into the conversation, but he says specifically in terms of the President – maybe not some of the operatives – the President makes the decisions based on national security. And you know, the truth of the matter – and you're right about the overwritten quality of some of the coverage – I mean, Robert Gates says very specifically in this book, "I agree that the President made the right decisions on all the primary questions on Afghanistan."
JANE HARMAN: Right.
GOLDBERG: So the scandal is not quite as much of a scandal as some people think.
HARMAN: And why are we shocked that the elected President of the United States, who is a politician, would consider politics?....I wish he [Gates] had waited to write this book, for two reasons. Number one, I think he would have thought differently away from the heat of battle. But number two, I don't think it's so cool to write a book during the term of the guy you served, especially when you got the Medal of Freedom. And I hope that Leon Panetta, who's writing a book, will wait. Jane to Leon, please wait.
SANTORUM: Well, I would just say that the President, when he ran the first time, said that the war we need to win is Afghanistan, right? So don't say that, you know, he was not doing things that were consistent with his political agenda. They were. And the things that I have the most problems with-
GREGORY: Right, that was thought of as the good war.
SANTORUM: Right, that was the good war. So hold on, the problems I have with this administration are less Afghanistan than they are what we did in Iraq, when we pulled out of Iraq, because it was politically popular to pull out of Iraq and not leave a suitable force-
GREGORY: Let me just get a comment from Chris on all this. Go.
MATTHEWS: When we go back and look at the text of what Gates actually said, he said that Hillary Clinton said her politics during the campaign against Obama in the caucuses out there, in Iowa especially, were driven by politics, but she did think the surge worked. But then it gets to the President. It doesn't say he acknowledged in any way or conceded vaguely that his politics – first of all, he was totally against the Iraq war, obviously he was against the surge consistently. So the way people are reading this is sort of double barreled. Really it's a shot against Hillary, not against Obama.