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Gates on Reid: 'I Do Denigrate Him,' But 'I've Tried to Critically Appraise' People in Washington

Allen also asked Gates why he thinks the American public does not hear Obama speak much about the war in Afghanistan.

In response, Gates said Obama should explain to the troops why success in Afghanistan is important and why their cause is just and noble.

“I once told Rahm [Emanuel] – I said I don’t object to the president’s speeches about exit strategies but the troops need to hear the commander in chief tell them why he is sending them there and why their sacrifice is worthwhile,” Gates said.

Gates, the former director of intelligence under George H. W. Bush, also addressed his experience serving with Clinton.

“In the entire two and a half years that I worked with Hillary as secretary of State when I was secretary of Defense, I never once heard her mention domestic politics as a factor in her recommendations or in her thinking about what we should do in foreign policy,” he told the audience.

“It really underscored for me the difference between somebody campaigning as a senator and somebody who has been given national security responsibilities and in a way it paralleled the president.”

At the end of the day, Obama set politics aside on national security issues and did what he thought was best for the country, Gates added.

Gates wrote in his book, though, “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.  . . . 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.”