Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked by host David Gregory about the differences between President Bush and President Obama.
Gates was slow to answer the question, and you could see the mental wheels turning as he tried to come up with a diplomatic response: "It's hard to say," he began. "I think probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical, and he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue, and if they don't speak up he calls on them."
In contrast, President Bush didn't go out of his way to elicit input from those in the room, Gates said.
Gates believes the possibility that the plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 would change is "fairly remote," but noted that President Obama has the authority to alter the plan. He also said that field commanders would have preferred keeping current troop levels through the end of 2010. [Currently, all combat forces are expected to be out of Iraq by August 31, 2010, with up to 50,000 troops remaining in advisory capacities.] The final plan was the result of a dialog involving President Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders.
Secretary Gates, a holdover from the George W. Bush era and a former CIA director under President George H. W. Bush, is the first Secretary of Defense to have served under presidents of both parties.