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Gates: I Was More Loyal To Obama Than Some In The White House

The former Secretary of Defense says his new memoir is not an "anti-Obama" book.

Posted on January 17, 2014, at 11:05 a.m. ET

Jason Reed / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Friday that reports of his criticism of President Obama in his new memoir were overblown and blamed Bob Woodward for initially portraying it as an anti-Obama book in his Washington Post story before its release.

"One of the advantages that Bob had was that nobody had read the book," Gates said at a breakfast with reporters in Washington. "And I think that as a growing number of journalists and others got copies of the book and read it during the days after the Post article I think the message began to rebalance itself, that this was not an anti-Obama book, it was much more nuanced than than that, and that I had a lot of positive things to say about President Obama in the book."

"If we could all have our do-overs, I suppose there are a lot of things people could change, but I'll just leave it at that," Gates said.

"I've had the growing feeling over the last week or so that my book has become like Lenin — you can find in it whatever you want to support your position on the political spectrum," Gates said.

Gates, who stepped down in 2011, has been on a media tour for his book Duty, a memoir of his time as Secretary of Defense which has mostly gotten attention for its negative portrayals of the president, vice president, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Gates claims opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons.

He said he didn't see any irony in a passage in his book where he criticizes Obama for asking advisors not to write about a meeting in their memoirs. (The passage: "I was put off by the way the president closed the meeting. To his very closest advisers, he said, 'For the record, and for those of you writing your memoirs, I am not making any decisions about Israel or Iran. Joe [Biden], you be my witness.' I was offended by his suspicion that any of us would ever write about such sensitive matters.")

"Not in the slightest because I was aware of the context and I write in the book about the context," Gates said. "The context was I had gone to the president to discuss specific decisions and military options with respect to an attack on Iran and with respect to an Israeli attack on Iran and we were talking about specific military options that the United States would take if the Israelis launched their own attack. That's what I was referring to when I said I was offended he might think that somebody would write about that in their memoirs and i never would have written about it in the memoir."

"It's been expanded, as you say, to suggest irony or contradiction or whatever applied to everything that I wrote when in fact if you go to the book it's very specifically in the context of military options with regard to Iran," Gates said.

Gates said that only a small portion of his book contained material that cast Obama in an unfavorable light and said of his time in the Obama administration, "Frankly I think I was more loyal to him than some in his own White House sometimes."