Charlie Rose desperately tried to find confirmation from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday's CBS This Morning on whether President Obama is a good commander-in-chief: "You can answer this question as well as anyone I know....do you give President Obama high marks in the national security arena?" Gates exposed Rose's pro-Obama tactic when he laughingly replied, "If I don't, I'm sort of giving myself a flunking grade."
The veteran national security official did his best to nuance his eventual answer, but still ended up giving his former boss the grade that the anchor was looking for: "He [Obama] was as aggressive, if not more so, in going after terrorists and al Qaeda. I think that the relationship with China has been managed pretty well. So, yeah, I think they've done a pretty good job."
Rose fished for his compliment of President Obama midway through his interview with his Gates. Earlier, the CBS journalist asked the former secretary of defense about the bin Laden raid and the difficulty in "finding a good answer" for dealing with Iran. Gates noted how he had recommended a missile strike on the suspected bin Laden compound in Pakistan, instead of a Navy SEAL raid: "My view was, you'll know [that bin Laden was killed]. It may take a few months and it's not as dramatic and you won't get the headline that you will on a SEAL raid, but...if you think he's there, that's probably the least risky way to take him out."
After asking three questions on the issue of Iran, the anchor pulled out his leading question. Even after Gates gave his "pretty good job" answer, Rose followed up by asking the former Cabinet official to compare his last two bosses:
ROSE: What's the difference in the way President Obama acts in the counsels of national security policy and the way President Bush acted?
GATES: Well, you just have to read about it in the book. (laughs)
ROSE: Well, I know, but give me a hint. I will- with great pleasure, I will- and I look forward to having you to talk about the book when it comes, but just give us a sense of how you see that.
GATES: I think President Obama goes out of his way to make sure he hears from everybody. He'll not only go around the table in the Situation Room; he'll go around the back bench to hear from the, sort of, second and third-tier officials. President Bush welcomed debate and discussion, but he didn't, sort of, point his finger at people and say, what do you think?
ROSE: And what instincts did President Bush have, say, that President Obama didn't have?
GATES: I think- well, first of all, you have to put both of these presidents in- when I knew them- in perspective. President Bush was in the last two years of eight years as president. He was never going to run for office again, and most of the big decisions had already been made. I worked for President Obama in the very first two years of his administration. Here's a president who knew from the beginning that he was going to run for reelection, but he also had a lot to learn, in terms of the national security arena. Frankly, I think he was an incredibly fast learner. And his desire to get a broad range of views was highly commendable.
It's interesting, to say the least, that Gates would point out Obama's desire for reelection, especially in the context of his earlier statement that a missile strike on the bin Laden compound would not be "as dramatic and you won't get the headline that you will on a SEAL raid."
The CBS anchor, along with his co-anchors Erica Hill and Gayle King, discussed the pre-recorded interview with Gates after it ran. Rose actually revealed more of his liberal sympathies during this part of the segment:
ROSE: You know, the other interesting thing is that, obviously, in conversations like this, took place at William and Mary. This is a man who's becoming the chancellor, which is a ceremonial job. George Washington was the chancellor at William and Mary. Thomas Jefferson graduated from William and Mary, and so did Jon Stewart. (Gayle King laughs)
ERICA HILL: A-ha!
ROSE: A scholar of comedy.
HILL: What a fine note to close on, Charlie Rose.
It is beyond bizarre to rank Stewart with the likes of those two Founding Fathers.