A&M president emeritus, former U.S. defense secretary and CIA director, and author of a memoir that's dominating cable news chatter, Robert Gates is returning to Aggieland.
Sorry Aggies, Gates told The Eagle previously that he's not interested in the opening for university president. Instead, he will be back in town to plug his new book, DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,
which was released Tuesday. At 11 a.m. on Jan. 21 in Rudder Auditorium, Gates will talk about the book, answer audience questions and sign copies of the memoir.
Gates, the 22nd president of A&M, told The Eagle he was looking forward to returning.
"It has been too long since being in Aggieland," Gates said in an email. "I am looking forward to being back."
The book dominated cable news talk shows before the New Jersey bridge scandal took center stage. Gates' book is still getting a fair amount of play for his blunt assessments and critiques of the administration of President Barack Obama and Washington politics in general.
Quotes such as "[Vice President Joe Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades" and "I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country" have received significant attention.
B. Dan Wood, a Texas A&M political science professor, had seen the widely circulated quotes but had not read the memoir when contacted by The Eagle on Monday. He said Gates didn't make outlandish comments and that the revelations in the book won't likely remain in the public consciousness long term.
"The news cycle will pass this by very quickly and what you might see in the future is during campaigns you may see advertisements harken back to that sort of thing, but I think it will have a very minimal effect," Wood said. "One of the big reasons I think this is a non-issue is there wasn't anything specific in the stuff that I've read in the reports on the book. When I say not specific, there was no real claim of malfeasance or any wrongdoing that was done by anyone. His one negative about Biden suggested to me he disagreed with Biden ... and that strikes me as a difference in partisanship and perspective."
Similarly, Wood said, Gates' commentary will likely not impact Obama's legacy.
"The secretary of defense, Bob Gates, is a person who brings a distinctive perspective to all of the jobs that he's held," Wood said. "He was recruited by the CIA. He served a stint in the Air Force sponsored by the CIA and then he entered directly into the CIA and, from that point on, with the exception of his time here at A&M, was a bureaucrat in the national security apparatus. His perspective is quite a bit different than that of the average American."
Wood said he has fond memories of Gates as university president and that Gates' opinions of Washington seem to be in stark contrast to that of Texas A&M.
"He said he hated Washington and he hated being secretary of defense. My take is he seemed to have really loved being a university president and dean of the Bush school here. He moved from a job that he seemed to love into a job that he seemed to hate. The title of his book is Duty -- maybe he did it because it was his duty to do it."