This week over 70 former Republican national security officials – including ex-CIA and FBI chiefs will formally endorse Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. The group, called “Former Republican National Security Officials for Biden,” reports Reuters, includes some senior GOP members of the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment from Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump administrations.
This is not surprising considering this national security establishment has often held a failed consensus view toward managing many of the threats to America. And this same establishment – including many GOP Never-Trumpers – has been most vocal and active in undermining President Trump since before he was inaugurated.
Some call them the ‘Deep State.’ Many of them are too old to matter much, others may be vying for positions in, or influence with, a possible Biden Administration.
However, one Republican defense establishment figure who was highly critical of Trump in 2016 but probably won’t be joining the Biden 2020 bandwagon, is former Obama-Biden Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. In his 2014 memoirs Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates writes that while Joe Biden was likable on a personal level, he has: “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
When asked in May 2019 by CBS’s “Face The Nation” host Margaret Brennan if he stood by that statement, Gates responded, as quoted by RealClearPolitics – “I think I stand by that statement.”
The full quote about Biden from his book was:
He’s a man of integrity, incapable of hiding what he really thinks, and one of those rare people you know you could turn to for help in a personal crisis. Still, I think he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.
When Margaret Brennan asked Gates if Biden would he be an effective commander-in-chief? Gates replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know… I think that the vice president had some issues with the military. So how he would get along with the senior military, and what that relationship would be…I think, it… would depend on the personalities at the time.”
Meanwhile, RealClearPolitics notes Gates seemed to doubt Biden’s mental abilities at his current age. In response to Brennan’s question asking Gates if he thought Biden was right for this moment. Gates replied:
I think having a President who is somebody our age or older… is- I think it’s problematic. I think that you don’t have the kind of energy that I think is required to be President. I think– I’m not sure you have the intellectual acuity that you might have had in your sixties.
Maybe that was Gates diplomatically saying that Biden isn’t all there. But beyond his views on Biden, where does Gates stand now on Trump?
In his recent book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World, Gates is slightly more supportive of President Trump. When questioned in June 2020 by NBC’s Chuck Todd about whether he had changed his mind on Trump since 2016, Gates said – according to The Hill:
“I would say this, Chuck. First of all, unlike his three predecessors…at least he hasn’t started any new wars and he has robustly funded the military.”
Gates also said he supported Trump’s “outreach” to North Korea. “It hasn’t come to anything, but I thought that was a bold move, and everything else had failed in the previous 25 years,” said Gates.
Bottom line is that Gates is pretty clear that he believes Biden has been wrong on foreign policy for four decades, and may not have the mental chops to be POTUS, and that Trump has not been nearly as bad as he feared, and his critics still claim.
That is something to keep in mind as former Republican national security leaders try to sell America on Biden.