The two chief beneficiaries of the collapse of the Bush presidency were Barack Obama and Robert Gates. Both have emerged as the Big Time Operators of our day, with Obama successfully engineering a broad social, tax and fiscal revolution, while Gates engineered the impossible comeback in Iraq, and is now reshaping the biggest bureaucracy in the world with his irregular warfare vision.
For the first year of the Obama presidency, the president and the secretary of defense seemed to be in lock step. But observers are seeing more and more white space between them in recent months.
Are Gates and Obama on a collision course? Gates made a brief effort to save General McChrystal, and McChrystal was his guy. The president decided almost immediately to fire the general, and made sure the press knew. Gates wants to veto the defense bill if more C-17s and the F-136 engine are included, but that seems like a lot to ask of the White House in a tough mid-term election year with a lousy economy. Gates is more inclined to duke it out in Afghanistan, while the liberals in the White House know in their hearts this is really George Bush’s war, as reflected in Vice President Biden’s brutal candor.
Power is fleeting in our democracy. It is rare when presidents maintain power over extended periods, the way FDR and Reagan did. Usually they get handcuffed quickly. Here is a fun question for you: In your lifetime, how many Democrats have been re-elected president? If you are under 65, only one: the ComeBack Kid, Bill Clinton. Current polling indicates the voters will likely handcuff President Obama in the mid-term elections in four months, and that he faces a tough re-election in 2012 should he decide to run again.
Power is even more fleeting for bureaucratic appointees. Again it is rare to find a Kissinger, Baker or Greenspan with staying power. Robert Gates has already had a remarkable run. But as fiscal, political and security pressures mount on the Obama White House, there is only one vote that determines the SecDef’s future. It is hard to imagine Kissinger or Baker getting as out of step with their presidential sponsors as Secretary Gates is now.
Find Archived Articles: