Bob Gates, the Republican former Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, pointedly told host Chris Wallace yesterday that Republicans – and that obviously includes Fox News pundits – should tone down their criticism of President Obama over Ukraine. But that didn’t stop Wallace from trying to prod Gates into criticizing Obama anyway
On the one hand, you have to give Fox News Sunday props for hosting Gates given that his criticism of fellow Republicans’ rhetoric was already known. On the other hand, given that the show is supposed to be a “Sunday morning public affairs program,” you have to consider that Wallace didn’t discuss any of the over-the-top comments about Obama by Republicans on the subject.
Meanwhile, as the Fox News transcript below shows, Wallace did his best to use Gates to malign Obama. Here’s Wallace's first swipe:
You’ve defended President Obama’s handling of the situation this week, but in January you said you thought that President Obama made a big mistake when he set the red line for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Here’s what you warn. “If you cock the pistol you’ve got to be willing to fire it.” By “cocking the pistol” whether it’s on the red line in Syria or giving asylum to Edward Snowden or other issues. You’re really—and then not firing it, you really don’t think that President Obama has emboldened Putin at all.
And here’s Gates’ smackdown:
Well, all I would say is - what I was saying earlier in the week was simply that I thought in the middle of a major international crisis, that some of the criticism, domestic criticism of the president ought to be toned down, while he’s trying to handle this crisis. My own view is, after all, Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force, so I think Putin is very opportunistic in these arenas. I think that even if—even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren’t cutting our defense budget, I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea, and he has seized it. You know, the ouster of Yanukovych was a big strategic setback for Putin, and—and I think it’s—it’s testimony to how skillful he is or how agile he is that he’s tried to offset that by the seizure of Crimea and throwing this whole situation into a very different—into a very different light, and I think that –
Wallace interrupted Gates’ explanation of what Putin is really up to, which has nothing to do with Obama, in order to swipe at Obama again:
Well, I know—excuse me, sir. I was just going to say you talk about Putin being opportunistic, and obviously he’s got a big strategy here, but just in terms of optics, do you think it’s helpful for President Obama to take the weekend off in the middle of what you call a crisis to be playing golf in Florida?
And here, even as Gates rebuffed Wallace’s “vacation police” attack, Wallace kept pushing it anyway:
GATES: Well, you know, I’ve—I’ve seen this happen year after year, president after president, president takes a day or two off and plays golf. It doesn’t matter whether it’s President Obama or ...
WALLACE: Would you have advised him to do it, sir?
GATES: The first President Bush going fishing. I think you’ve got to give these guys a little time off. You know, mostly they are working 20 hours a day.
WALLACE: Would you have advised him to do it this weekend, sir?
GATES: Well, I was never in the position to advice presidents on what they did on weekends.
WALLACE: That’s a very diplomatic answer.
The remainder of what you need to know comes in this form: If the president’s a Democrat- Never mind race, this is before we include their racial disposition- it doesn’t matter which way he thinks. Obama makes quick moves, he’s a dictator. He thinks them out, he’s a wimp. There’s no winning against that kind of circular logic.
And Golf? Really? George W. Bush spent half his damn presidency on vacation, and he did everything but install a tree house on the white house lawn between them. Not only that, but when he remembered he was the president, it seemed like he got half his work done talking shop over golf, bowling, beers, at concerts, at parties…
At least Obama feels like there’s a president in the White House. Bush felt like that idiot frat boy who only has his office because he’s related to the boss.