White House defends Biden, Obama over former Pentagon chief’s memoir

    By IANS,

    Washington : The White House Wednesday continued to defend Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama amid an escalating controversy over former defense secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir.

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    White House spokesperson Jay Carney stressed that Obama and the rest of the White House team “simply just disagree with that assessment” of Gates about Biden, Xinhua reported.

    Gates unleashed severe criticism against Biden, according to excerpts of the book which were released by several leading US dailies Tuesday and Wednesday. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

    But Carney said, “As a senator and as a vice president, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time and he has been an excellent counselor and adviser to the president for the past five years.”

    In his memoir, Gates also doubted Obama’s leadership and commitment to his own Afghanistan strategy and accused the White House staff of being too controlling over national security issues.

    Gates described a pivotal meeting in March 2011 to discuss the US withdrawal timetable. “As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, ” he wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”

    Carney argued that Obama has “great faith” in the troops and the mission itself. The spokesperson, however, dodged questions about Gates’ assertion that Obama couldn’t stand Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying that Obama made foreign policy decisions based only on the nation’s strategic goals.

    “The issues here are not about personalities, they’re about policies,” said Carney.

    National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden responded quickly by releasing a statement late Tuesday night, following Tuesday’s reports of Gates’ new memoir.

    “As we noted yesterday, the president greatly appreciates Secretary Gates’ service to the president’s administration and to the country,” said Carney, echoing Hayden’s statement.

    Carney acknowledged that the White House has received copies of the book Tuesday night, but Obama has not read it.

    “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War” is scheduled for release Jan 14. Gates served as the Pentagon chief for nearly five years, which started from former president George W. Bush’s second term and continued into Obama’s first term at his request.