Robert Gates memoir: Top 5 bombshells

Early leaks of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ highly anticipated memoir have yielded a slew of insider tidbits about the personalities and behind-the-scenes struggles of Presidents Bush and Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other top officials as they fought wars on two fronts.

Mr. Gates, who admits that he has a “pretty good poker face,” dishes about them all in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” due out next week.

Here are his top five revelations:

1. White House micromanagement

Charles Dharapak/AP/File
In this June 15, 2011, file photo, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testifies regarding the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2012 budget request before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Obama administration is “by far the most centralized and controlling” since the Nixon White House, Gates says.

He describes laboring mightily to “resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement.”

Indeed, he writes, the “controlling nature” of the White House staff “took micromanagement and operational meddling to a new level.”

That said, in one of the sometimes contradictory pivots that the defense secretary to two presidents makes frequently in his book, Gates adds that he had “no problem with the White House driving policy” since “the bureaucracy at the State and Defense Departments rarely come up with big new ideas, so almost any meaningful change must be driven by the president and his National Security staff.”

Even Gates, admired by both sides of the political aisle, had trouble getting things accomplished. He writes that “despite everyone being ‘nice’ to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult – even in the midst of two wars.”

1 of 5

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.