While on Meet The Press Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, comparing his former boss, Bush, to Obama, said the later was more analytical when it comes to advice given to him by his cabinet. Read the transcript. Excerpt below:
MR. GREGORY: You've always said it's important to be a realist about Iraq. President Bush originally thought that the U.S. would be able to get down to 30,000 troops by September of 2003. Tom Ricks, the author, as you know, of "Fiasco" and now "The Gamble," has covered the Pentagon in this war extensively, said this about the plan to end the combat phase: "I don't think it's going to happen. Why doesn't he [President Obama] just say as they stand up, we'll stand down. He is walking in the failed footsteps of his predecessor, which is being persistently overoptimistic about Iraq." Let's be clear here. Has the president said that if things get worse, if things go bad, that all bets are off? That he would stop the withdrawal?
SEC'Y GATES: What the president has said is that as commander in chief he always remain--retains the flexibility and the authority to change a plan or adjust it if he thinks it's in the national security of the United States. The fact is, I don't think any of us believe that that will be necessary.
MR. GREGORY: But again, it's possible if there's a deterioration, he reserves that right to end the withdrawal.
SEC'Y GATES: I would characterize the likelihood of significant adjustments to this plan as fairly remote.
MR. GREGORY: Fairly remote.
But let's talk about where there are potential flash points in Iraq. People I've talked to say there are three real areas. In the north you've got tension between the Arabs and the Kurds; the prospect of the Kurds, perhaps, trying to split off from Iraq. In Mosul, a large al-Qaeda in Iraq presence. In the south, in Basra, oil-rich area, as you know, militia groups fighting over that oil revenue. In your judgment, what are the prospects of civil war once U.S. forces come out in large numbers?
SEC'Y GATES: Well, first of all, I think it's important to remember we have another 18 months, and we are going to have a substantial force there. I would disagree that there is a, a significant instability in Basra. I think Basra is one of the real success stories from Prime Minister Maliki's offensive down there last year. So I--Mosul is a problem. The Arab-Kurb tensions are a problem. The need to get an oil law is a problem. So, so there are problems. We have the, the concerns associated with a national election at the end of this year, is one of the reasons why General Odierno wanted to keep those troops there as long as possible, or a significant number of troops. So there's no question, we've had a significant military success. There has been real progress on the political side, but there is clearly unfinished business in that arena as well. But we will still be there with a significant presence for another 18 months. And, and as we've seen just over the last six to 12 months, what we have mostly seen is significant progress. And I think most of the people most closely associated with that expect--with Iraq expect that progress to continue.
MR. GREGORY: There is an agreement between the United States and Iraq to pull all forces out by 2011. That's what the president alluded to.
SEC'Y GATES: Right.
[...]MR. GREGORY: What's the difference between working--what's different between working for President Obama vs. President Bush?
SEC'Y GATES: That sounds like the subject of a good book.
MR. GREGORY: Is that a book you're planning on writing? Are they different presidents? Do they have different styles, different temperaments?
SEC'Y GATES: Oh, sure.
MR. GREGORY: What's the major difference to you?
SEC'Y GATES: I--that's--it's really hard to say. I think that, I think that probably President Obama is, is somewhat more analytical, and, and, he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don't speak up, he calls on them.
MR. GREGORY: A marked difference from his predecessor?
SEC'Y GATES: President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't, if they hadn't spoken up before.