CBS Hounds Gates on Book 'Turmoil'; Wonders Why He Didn't Follow Advice to 'Shut Up'

Rita Braver badgered former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the January 12, 2013 edition of CBS's Sunday Morning over his new memoir which, in her words, "has created such turmoil in Washington." Braver even used Gates's own words against him: "In your book, you say that one of your favorite adages is, never miss a good chance to shut up. And I wonder if you think, maybe, you violated your own advice here."

The correspondent's hardball treatment of the former Obama cabinet official contrasts with her kid glove treatment of Attorney General Eric Holder during a September 12, 2010 interview for the morning show: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

RITA BRAVER (voice-over): Ignoring political pressure is Holder's constant message as he talks to Justice Department lawyers in places like Mobile, Alabama....When he took office last February, he got a hero's welcome. It was in part, he believes, a reaction to cronyism and questionable policies advocated in the Bush-era Justice Department....

BRAVER (on-camera): Because you're the first African American Attorney General, do you put any extra pressure on yourself?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yeah, I certainly feel that. I feel there's a certain responsibility I have.

Braver interviewed Gates as a follow-up to the original segment about his memoir, due to the criticism that the book has received in recent days – mainly from supporters of President Obama. She first asked, "A lot of questions are being raised about whether it was proper in the first place for a secretary of defense to write anything negative about a sitting president, especially on matters – on policy matters that are still ongoing."

Gates answered, in part, that "with the experience of – and perspective of working for eight presidents, and having been secretary for four and a half years, I didn't think that waiting until 2017 to weigh in on these issues – and in a comprehensive and thoughtful way – made any sense."

This answer apparently didn't satisfy the CBS correspondent, as she continued by pressing the former Gates secretary, and included her "shut up" question:

BRAVER: I think what people are troubled by, is that you criticized President Obama on actions –  particularly on his commitment to the war in Afghanistan – while it's still going on. And people are saying – look, that's just not right.

GATES: I make very explicit in the book that I agreed with all of the President's decisions on Afghanistan – the ones that he made in 2009 and – and subsequently. My one concern – as I described in the book, and to be honest about it – was that over the course of 2010 and early 2011, the President began to have his own reservations about whether it would all work. And I think that's not an unfair thing to say.

BRAVER: In your book, you say that one of your favorite adages is, never miss a good chance to shut up. And I wonder if you think, maybe, you violated your own advice here – and do you regret anything that you've written?

GATES: No, I don't. I think that it's an honest account. Look, people gave me a lot of credit, when I was in office, of being blunt and candid about what I felt about things. I could hardly be any less in – in writing a book.


Braver did note that "Gates says he understands that people will take what they want to take from his book," and played a clip from this newer portion of the interview, where the former Obama administration official lamented the current political climate:

GATES: In a way, the way people are looking at the book reflects the polarization of our political process at this point. A lot of people – not everybody – is going to look at this book in terms of how does it advance my particular political agenda, or how does it damage my political agenda? And my objective was to stand back and try and provide a non-partisan look at the kind of issues that have riven our country and riven our government for the last number of years.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center