Why do we have ‘Bridgegate’ — but not ‘Gatesgate’?
The media quickly came up with a term for the apparently politically orchestrated George Washington Bridge traffic jam: “Bridgegate.” Now what catchy term do the media attach to the explosive new book castigating the incumbent wartime commander in chief? “Gatesgate”? Hardly.
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is suspected of orchestrating, for political payback, a traffic jam on the GW Bridge. “Meet the Press” spent more than half of its most recent show — 28 minutes not counting commercials — on “Bridgegate,” less than 11 minutes on the Gates’ allegations, another 12 minutes reporting on women living in poverty and exactly zero seconds on the just-released jobs report.
According to Media Research Center, the Big Three television networks –CBS, NBC and ABC — media spent 17 times more airtime on “Bridgegate” in 24 hours than they did in 6 months on Obama’s IRS scandal.
Oh, and that jobs report? Worst in years. December saw a jobs gain of only 74,000 — substantially less than the nearly 200K expected. The labor force participation rate, which measures the percentage of Americans working or actively looking for a job, fell to 62.8 percent — the lowest level in 36 years.
Now, about the non-existent Gatesgate scandal. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates makes frightening allegations in his new book, “Duty.” Gates wrote that shortly after the new President decided to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, Obama became “skeptical if not outright convinced (his strategy) would fail” — even as Gates was signing deployment orders! Gates recalls thinking that Obama “doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”
But in August 2008, then-candidate Sen. Obama said the war in Afghanistan — unlike the Iraq War — was “not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. … If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting; this is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
But in an interview, Gates said that, public statements to the contrary, Obama did not believe in “the importance of success” in Afghanistan. “It’s one thing to tell the troops that you support them,” Gates said. “It’s another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed. President Bush did that with the troops when I was Secretary. I did not see President Obama do that.” The President “needed to acknowledge,” wrote Gates, “that the (Afghanistan) war could take years but that he was confident we would ultimately be successful.” But Obama did not.
Has a former secretary of defense ever leveled this kind of criticism against an incumbent wartime president? Veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward called it “one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief. … It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president.”
There’s more. Gates claims that both Obama and Hillary Clinton admitted to him that their opposition to President George W. Bush’s Iraq “surge” had been “political.” Gates wrote: “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.”
Why now? Couldn’t Gates wait until after Obama left office before writing the book? After all, some 43,000 troops still remain in Afghanistan. Gates, by almost all accounts, is a man of honor and integrity. He likely believes that Obama precipitously pulled troops out of Iraq and is determined to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen with Afghanistan.
Voters now know the President misled them on Obamacare. But Obama, according to Gates, also deceived about Afghanistan. The good news for Obama is that, unlike Obamacare, the public dislikes the Afghanistan war as much as he does. A CNN poll finds the Afghanistan war is arguably America’s most unpopular war — ever. The bad news is that our enemies have not gone away.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, both recently agreed that Americans are not “safer now than we were” a year or two ago, that “terror is up worldwide” and “there is huge malevolence out there” toward the U.S.
The specter of a commander in chief who “doesn’t believe his own strategy” — even as troops are being deployed — is shocking, almost as much as a traffic jam on the GW Bridge.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. Follow Larry on Twitter @larryelder.