Robert Gates’ tenure as Secretary of Defense looked something like a scene from Groundhog Day, the movie in which Bill Murray is condemned to live the same day over and over.
But instead of living the same day over again, Gates just told the same repetitive lies.
Yet now that he’s left D.C., he’s finally telling the truth; and it’s left Capitol Hill with mixed emotions.
Some are giggling, others are smirking, and many are distraught over the latest must-own book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.
You see, Robert Gates was the consummate political insider. He could play both sides of the political street.
He also epitomized the typical inveterate liar who now populates Capitol Hill, even as Americans yearn for leaders who will actually stand up and say what they think.
Gates held many of the most important jobs in government over the course of his career.
He worked for six presidents, including both Republicans and Democrats. He worked in top jobs at the CIA and the National Security Council. And by many accounts, he was one of the most competent war-time leaders in the Pentagon.
And, of course, he became one of the preeminent D.C. insiders along the way.
Now, the unwritten rule of the insiders club is that you don’t share your feelings honestly.
As a member of the club, you’re given daily talking points – some call it the spin sheet. If you want to get ahead in D.C., you repeat these talking points (often lies) to any camera, journalist, or pundit who will listen.
So for years, Gates followed his team’s instructions… until now, that is. With the publication of his book, Gates has unleashed a torrent of truth, something rarely seen in the Capital City. Here are some of his juicier talking points:
On Obama: Gates concludes that Obama is a terrible leader. Writing about the president’s Afghanistan War strategy, Gates says he “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”
On Vice President Joe Biden: Gates writes, “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
On Hillary Clinton: According to Gates, “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the  surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
On Congress: Gates unleashes some of his best invective when speaking about Congress. “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.”
So what does all of this mean?
Well, I think that most Americans already think Obama is a terrible leader, especially since the launch of Obamacare. So Gates’ comments about Obama won’t amount to a hill of beans.
The comments that could have real impact are from Hillary Clinton, whose fundamental dishonesty about a policy as important as the Iraq surge in 2007 is disturbing to say the least.
Clinton opposed the surge just to gain political points, meaning she was okay with sacrificing America’s success and soldiers’ lives to enhance her political position during an election.
For a leader on the verge of a Presidential run, this is a ruinous accusation.
Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we’ve been given a momentary glimpse beyond the daily talking points and the tired rhetoric. Robert Gates has given us a view of the real Washington, D.C., and it reaffirms just how sick and self-centered the governing elite of both parties has become.
This commentary originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.