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Ex-defense secretary in Chicago: Obama was ‘detached,’ Congress ‘incompetent’

Former Secretary Defense Robert Gates still wearing neckbrace after fall few weeks ago was Chicago Tuesday night talk about his

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, still wearing a neckbrace after a fall a few weeks ago, was in Chicago Tuesday night to talk about his controversial book. Gates took aim at President Obama and Congress. | Mitch Dudek~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 28, 2014 10:28PM



Hours before President Barack Obama said he planned to get things done without the help of Congress Tuesday night, his former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, stood on a stage in Chicago and laid into the legislative body.

His assessment was blunt.

“My view of Congress: uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities — such as timely appropriations micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, and too often putting self and re-election before country,” Gates said while addressing the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the Fairmont Hotel just east of the Loop.

Gates, who recently came under fire not waiting until President Barack Obama left office before publishing a memoir critical of his old boss’s administration, said he chose not to wait “because the major themes of the book address issues that are important today, not in 2017.” Gates pointed to topics in the book such has how to the deal with unstable Arab Spring countries and whether to attack Iran if the negotiations don’t work.

After his speech, Gates signed dozens of his book “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”

“Every single day I was Secretary of Defense, I was at war with the Congress,” said Gates, who pointed to budget battles. “Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous and wasteful, was sacrosanct. Every contract defended to the last breath,” he said.

Gates spoke briefly of bending the ear of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was then President Obama’s chief of staff, over a military concern.

“President Obama seemed detached from the war in Afghanistan and failed to tell the troops why their sacrifice was necessary, why their cause was noble and just, why their mission was important enough to risk their lives. This lack of passion from the commander in chief troubled me, and I told White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at one point the president had to take ownership of the war, especially after he added 60,000 troops — but to no avail.”

Email: mdudek@suntimes.com

Twitter: @mitchdudek



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