Joe Klein writes a baffling piece hailing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ performance and suggesting Barack Obama would be wise to keep him on in an Obama cabinet. Why baffling? (And no, it is not the first time we have found Klein baffling around here.) Klein never mentions that Gates, whatever his initial feelings about the surge, has brilliantly overseen the war effort despite the adamant objections of Obama. Indeed Klein never really addresses the Iraq war, the central national security issue of the last several years, at all.
A more candid observer of Gates recently got it right, noting:
He aggressively prosecuted the war, fired his combatant commander for Central Command (who was less enthusiastic than Gates about winning in Iraq) and Air Force chief (who wasn’t getting UAVs to the battlefield fast enough). Gates, who initially opposed the war, is fighting it with more gusto than his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who supported the invasion.
And Obama? He fought Gates tooth and nail all the way.
So getting back to Klein’s piece, it seems utterly bizarre to ignore all of this, a sort of “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play?” stunt. You would think he would at least mention and then explain how their diametrically opposing views on the prosecution of the surge might be reconciled.
This gaping omission suggests the punditocracy is all too anxious to airbrush Iraq and the surge out of the political dialogue. Yet the data is piling up (a must read transcript of the Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack briefing is now available) so it is silly, if not embarrassing, for pundits to put their fingers in their ears and hum to try to block out the uncomfortable news.
When the Iraq war effort was failing they couldn’t get enough of it; now Obama’s pundit cheering section hopes to make it a non-issue. Somehow I think the voters will get an earful of it before Election Day, despite the Obama fans’ best efforts to sweep it all under the rug.