Tags: robert gates | trump | wrong | national security

Robert Gates: I'm Hoping I Was Wrong About Trump

("CBS This Morning")

By    |   Wednesday, 30 November 2016 12:19 PM

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he's "hoping" he was wrong about statements he made about President-elect Donald Trump, calling him "unqualified and unfit" to be president based on his views on national security issues.

Gates told"CBS This Morning" on Wednesday that he had spoken to a number of people who Trump has met with regarding national security and he "encouraged them to serve."

"It's critical for us now that he is president-elect for him to be successful as president, especially in national security," he continued. "It's important for us all. So I think that anybody that can do anything to help should do it, and those who want to stand on the sidelines, I would urge them to reconsider."

The former defense secretary said it was "very encouraging" to see some of the people that Trump is considering for senior jobs in his administration.

Gates singled out retired Gen. James Mattis, saying, "I would ordinarily have some concerns about civilian military relationships and civilian control and so on, but not with Jim Mattis. Jim has a deep sense of history. He's got a great strategic mind. Folks in uniform love him. I think he would be a great choice."

Mattis has not been retired for seven years and is subject to a U.S. law that prohibits commissioned officers from serving as secretary of defense until such a time.

Gates, however, said he believes Mattis could get a waiver from Congress to serve since he appears to have the support of John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I think getting that waiver would be more of a formality than a problem," Gates said.

The issue of having multiple retired generals in administration roles came up, with Gates noting that Trump has interviewed several, including Gen. John Kelly and Gen. David Petraeus.

"I think it would be difficult to have former generals as both secretary of state and secretary of defense," he said. "The president will obviously have to make his own choices, but I think that is probably too much military influence in the decision-making process."

Gates also said Kelly and Petraeus are "amazing, terrific people."

On a strategy towards Russia, Gates said the president has to "thread the needle between trying to break the downward spiral of the relationship with Russia that has been going on for the last couple of years, and, at the same time, send the message to Putin that the United States can't be pushed around."

Russia has the U.S. at a disadvantage in Syria, he said and "if there is an outside power that is calling the shots, if you will, in Syria right now, it's Russia, not us."

As for the fight against ISIS, the former defense secretary said that "what we're doing now is what we ought to be doing. But we ought to have been doing it two years ago," noting using air campaigns and having advisors helping U.S. allies.

On the Iran nuclear deal, Gates said he thought the U.S. could have gotten a better one, but it would be a mistake to scrap it because "we would be the ones isolated, not the Iranians . . . none of our other partners who helped negotiate that would walk away from it."

He encouraged Trump to "push back" against the Iranians' behavior in the region. But he said that diplomatic means and intelligence activities were a better idea than sending more troops.

"We have used the military tool in the national security toolbox to the exclusion of everything else," Gates said.

Gates has served with eight presidents and was the only defense secretary in history to be asked to stay in that office by a new president.

In September, he wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal saying Trump was "stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief."

Trump responded on Twitter: "He knows nothing about me."

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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he's "hoping" he was wrong about statements he made about President-elect Donald Trump, calling him "unqualified and unfit" to be president based on his views on national security issues.
robert gates, trump, wrong, national security
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 12:19 PM
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