Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview airing Sunday on CBS that he wasn't sure there was anyone left in the Obama administration who could really speak truthfully to the president.
Gates said Obama welcomed him as an adviser when he was Pentagon chief in spite of their frequent disagreements. However, the issue of Obama being steered by yes-men in his administration has come back to the forefront after a New York Times article about national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who boasted of his extreme closeness with Obama, as well as his manipulation of the media and the public to sell the Iran nuclear deal.
"There has been criticism of the Obama administration that they block or shape, or try to shape, the views of senior cabinet officials and there's too much control by the NSC," Face The Nation host John Dickerson said. "Did you experience that in your days?"
"No, I never had that problem, mainly because I just didn't let them," Gates said, laughing. "I found President Obama very welcoming of honest and candid points of view. He and I would have some very direct conversations in private ... Sometimes we disagreed very strongly, and he would end them by standing up, smiling and saying, 'Are you sure I can't get to you stay another year?'"
"Was he being facetious or did he like the back and forth?" Dickerson asked.
"I think he welcomed it," Gates said. "He obviously didn't decide my way all the time, by any means, but I'm not sure how many people there are left in the administration at this point who are willing to have direct issues with him like that. I just don't know."
Gates was the first of four defense secretaries under Obama. He and other ex-Pentagon heads Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel have expressed strong criticism for the White House's handling of the military.