The media has fallen back into one of their favorite narratives about Obama being on the defensive, but they completely missed that Robert Gates’ new book shows why Barack Obama is a good president.
NBC News led off their story with, “The White House continued to defend President Barack Obama’s leadership style and affirm his relationship with Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday in the face of harsh accusations by Obama’s former defense secretary.”
Politico kept the story going, “The White House scrambled late Tuesday and early Wednesday to respond to a political fragging from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.”
The gossipy tween girl mentality of Beltway media is gobbling up Robert Gates’ book, and using it to push their favorite anti-Obama narrative of a presidency in crisis.
An excerpt from the book proves that the mainstream media storyline is missing the point,
I had no problem with the White House driving policy; the bureaucracies 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 (NSS), led during my tenure under Obama by Gen. James Jones, Thomas Donilon and Denis McDonough.
But I believe the major reason the protracted, frustrating Afghanistan policy review held in the fall of 2009 created so much ill will was due to the fact it was forced on an otherwise controlling White House by the theater commander’s unexpected request for a large escalation of American involvement. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request surprised the White House (and me) and provoked a debate that the White House didn’t want, especially when it became public. I think Obama and his advisers were incensed that the Department of Defense—specifically the uniformed military—had taken control of the policy process from them and threatened to run away with it.
Most of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren’t over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the NSS’s micromanagement and operational meddling, which I routinely resisted. For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House—and probably cause for dismissal.
It became routine under Obama. I directed commanders to refer such calls to my office. The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.
While the media is obsessing over whether or not Joe hearts Barack or any of the other nonsense, they missed the point that Gates was not happy with the president because he wanted his people to keep an eye on the Pentagon. After years of listening to George W. Bush tell us to believe the generals, it is comforting to have a president who won’t let the Pentagon roam unsupervised.
What Gates called micromanagement and meddling was actually executive oversight. If I was Gates I would not have liked it either, but this is what a good president is supposed to do. The trust us we know what we are doing stuff is what got us into Iraq.
Obama is a good president because he is doing exactly what he said he would do with the military when he was running for president in 2008. The fact that the Obama White House is centralized and focused on domestic politics doesn’t make it much different from any other White House. I would also argue that the same strengths and weaknesses in the administration were visible during the president’s first presidential campaign.
There haven’t been any surprises with Obama. For those who paid attention, they got exactly what they thought they would be getting out of an Obama presidency. The media is using a book that is highly critical of all of Washington to attack Obama, but once again they got it wrong.
President Obama is far from perfect, but he is doing exactly what the voters sent him to Washington to do. Robert Gates didn’t like some it, the media is still grinding the anti-Obama axe, but the excerpt from this book shows why Barack Obama has been a good president with even better intentions.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association