There was lots of chafing when President Obama decided to keep Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — the lone holdover from the Dubya adminstration. He was a Republican, liberals complained.
And yet, reading this profile of him in Time, I’m struck by how right the decision was to retain him and propers where they are due, the decision by then-President Bush in 2006 to pluck Robert Gates from Texas A & M to replace Donald Rumsfeld.
After a quietly impressive career in government that has spanned more than 30 mostly Republican years, Robert Gates is suddenly seeming almost, well, charismatic. He reeks authority. He is, according to several sources, the most respected voice in National Security Council debates. The President is said to love his unadorned manner. Much of which is attributable to the fact that, in the self-proclaimed twilight of his public career, Gates has emerged as that most exotic of Washington species — the bureaucrat unbound, candid and fearless. He tells members of Congress what he really thinks about their pet programs. He upends Pentagon priorities, demotes the military-industrial hardware pipeline and promotes the immediate needs of the troops on the front line. He fires high-ranking subordinates without muss or controversy — an Air Force secretary and chief of staff who didn’t agree with him on the need to end production of the F-22 aircraft; the commandant of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, who presided over disgraceful conditions; even a well-respected general like David McKiernan, a conventional-warfare specialist unsuited for the asymmetrical struggle in Afghanistan.