“Hillary Told the President That Her Opposition to the Surge in Iraq Had Been Political”

A politician.

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Deeper into Robert Gates’ memoirs, we find some hot and cold reactions to the other players who’d show up at the table when major decisions came before the president. It’s been reported widely that Gates was dismissive of Joe Biden; he is, by contrast, pretty easy on Hillary Clinton. “We would develop a very strong partnership,” he writes of their first meeting, “in part because it turned out we agreed on almost every important issue.” 

Almost. Here’s how he remembers Clinton first confronting the question of Afghanistan.


The exchange that followed was remarkable. In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. She went on to say, “The Iraq surge worked.” The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.

Still, she comes out better than Biden. Gates confirms a story that the vice president has admitted, ruefully, when forced. It’s from right before the successful raid on Osama Bin Laden.

The president went around the table and asked each person for his or her recommendation. Biden was against the operation. Cartwright and I supported the drone option. Panetta was in favor of the raid. Everyone else acknowledged it was a close call but also supported the raid.