Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates: Washington's Most Powerful Odd Couple

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Clinton said that the challenge after facing midterm losses is to "stay your course and your principles and do what you believe is right for the country," but present it in a way that resonates with voters.

"Bill made a lot of hard decisions for the Congress, you know, raising taxes to go down with the deficit, getting assault weapons off the streets, and a lot of other things that were very difficult. And people lost their seats in Congress because nobody understood exactly what this would all mean to the average voter," she said. "Similarly, [President Obama] inherited a terrible economic situation. I think what he's done has prevented a depression, even though I'm very worried about the fact that employment is not where it should be and the president is working hard on that. But what he has to do now is figure out ways to advance what he thinks is the right agenda for America, working with a Republican house and a narrower majority of Democrats in the senate."

Many have questioned whether Obama would move to the center in the wake of the Democrats' poor showing in the midterms, as political analysts say President Clinton did.

Hillary Clinton sees it differently.

"I don't think that Bill changed his principles or changed his objectives or really reversed course in any way," she said. "I think what he did was take a very clear-eyed assessment of what was going to be possible with the congress after the election, and moved on every front that he could to get things done. And I think that's what you'll see President Obama doing."

Gates on McChrystal: He Behaved With 'Extraordinary Integrity'

As for her own plans for Congress, the Secretary of State said she had a call into soon-to-be House Majority Leader John Boehner and said she could "absolutely" work with him.

In that work, it seems, Gates will be by her side. The soft-spoken Republican and the superstar Democrat are leaving little daylight behind them, even on the thorny issue of "don't ask, don't tell."

Both reiterated their support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military and dropping the policy -- which was instituted by the Clinton administration as a substitute for its earlier effort to end the military's ban on gay service members -- though Gates said the "smart" way to address "don't ask, don't tell" was through legislation rather than judicial means. (The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled to keep "don't ask, don't tell" in place for now after a lower court judge declared it unconstitutional.) That process could take much longer, something President Obama has been criticized for by his base.

"This thing is gonna go one way or the other. And, you know, there's smart ways to do things and there's stupid ways to do things," Gates said. "Trying to do this all at once and under some kind of fiat, I think is not the way to do it."

While the firestorm over "don't ask, don't tell" continues to rage on, Gates seems to have put another controversy behind him: President Obama's unceremonious dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, after McChrystal and his aides slammed members of the Obama administration in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Gates said that while President Obama was right to fire McChrystal, he still believed that McChrystal was still "the right man" for Afghanistan. His successor, General David Petraeus, has continued work on plans that McChrystal put together, Gates said.

He said he hasn't spoken to McChrystal since his retirement.

"What happened was an unfortunate thing, a tragedy in many ways," he said.

"The truth of the matter is General McChrystal took responsibility for this on himself," Gates added. "He behaved, I thought, with extraordinary integrity."

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