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Gates to Stay on as SecDef?

3:19 PM, Nov 11, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Wall Street Journal reports:

President-elect Barack Obama is leaning toward asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his position for at least a year, according to two Obama advisers. A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates would likely accept the offer if it is made.

No final decision has been made, and Obama aides said other people are also under serious consideration for the defense post, one of the most highly coveted in any new cabinet. Several prominent Democrats, including former Clinton Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and former Clinton Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, are also being considered.

The decision on retaining Mr. Gates will be the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration's thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like the president-elect, Mr. Gates supports deploying more troops to Afghanistan. But the defense secretary strongly opposes a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, and his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was effectively shelving his campaign promise to remove most troops from Iraq by mid-2010.

But Politico reports antiwar groups are pushing back:

Arms control advocates and anti-war activists are ratcheting up pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to dump Defense Secretary Robert Gates and replace him with a more strident anti-war voice.

Nominating Gates to stay, "would be a violation of the mandate for change that Obama says he represents," said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the anti-war group CodePink.

A better bipartisan fit for Obama, they say, is Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who brings out what they like about Gates - his ability to deal with Russia, Iran and Syria - without the direct link to Bush's policies.

"That would be an unmistakable sign from the Obama camp that they really are nonpartisan," said Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com. "He would be great."

The pressure comes as momentum appears to be gaining for those who support keeping Gates to remain at the helm of the Pentagon, at least for a transitional period.
Moderate Democrats in Congress, including Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, support the idea.

But when Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) promoted Gates appointment in a closed door meeting with Obama and House Democrats several months ago, he was booed by his colleagues.