Was Hillary Clinton defending the Secretary of Defense . . . or jerking him back into line?
It was a stunning power play. On Meet The Press this morning, after Defense Secretary Bob Gates conceded that Libya is not a "vital interest" of the United States--but before he could complete his comments--Hillary cut him off. She launched into a minute-and-forty-second monologue seeking to justify US military involvement in Libya.
Gates had to sit and take it . . . and never got to say another word.
View video after the jump.
Watch Hillary big-foot Bob Gates.
DAVID GREGORY: Secretary Gates, is Libya in our vital interest, as a country?
ROBERT GATES: No, I don't think it's a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have an interest there, and it's a part of a region which is a vital interest for the United States.
Gregory clearly addressed his follow-up question to Gates.
GREGORY: I think a lot of people would hear that and say, well that's quite striking. Not in our vital interest and yet we're committing military resources --
Before Gates could respond, Hillary jumped in.
HILLARY CLINTON: -- but, but then it wouldn't be fair to what Bob just said.
So rather than letting Gates respond, Hillary broke in. Under the guise of "being fair" to Bob, Clinton in essence corrected his statement, from the Obama admin perspective.
CLINTON: Did Libya attack us? No, they did not attack us. Do they have a very critical role in this region, and do they neighbor two countries in this region, you just mentioned one, Egypt and the other one, Tunisia, which cannot afford to be destabilized by conflict on their borders? Yes.
Hillary went on to argue that Libya is in the vital interest of certain European allies and that we were responding to their urgent request to get involved. She drew the analogy to Afghanistan, where our European allies joined our alliance after 9-11 although it was the United States, and not Europe, that had been attacked.
Clearly Clinton didn't trust Gates to make a sufficiently muscular defense of President Obama's policy. Host David Gregory never gave Gates a chance to defend himself. When Hillary finished her monologue, Gregory moved on to another subject: inviting Hillary to comment on the death of Geraldine Ferraro.
Gates never got to say another word. It was a classic DC big-footing, and one the Defense Secretary would seem unlikely to forget anytime soon.