The White House and Republican leaders are speaking out in response to a new book, by former U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates, that provides unflattering insights on the president, vice president and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
In "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," Gates describes the president as skeptical of his administration's "surge" strategy in Afghanistan.
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded Wednesday by saying Gates was an important part of a robust team whose opinions were needed to implement a "far improved policy in Afghanistan."
"When you pick a team of rivals, you do so, in part, because you expect competing points of view and competing opinions. And that's very much what the president expects in foreign policy and domestic policy and that's what he gets. And he's grateful for it."
In excerpts from the book, Gates criticizes the president for having a White House that was, in Gates's words, "the most centralizing and controlling in national security as any I have seen since Richard Nixon."
Gates was a Republican holdover from the George W. Bush administration and served for two years under Mr. Obama. Gates writes he never doubted Mr. Obama's support for the troops, "only his support for their mission."
Republican Senator John McCain told CNN Tuesday that Gates's words "will have significant impact."
Criticism of Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton comes as both are considered major contenders in the next presidential race.
Gates said Biden has been "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." The White House disagreed, saying Biden is one of the leading statesmen of his time who "has helped advance America's leadership in the world."
Gates said he recalls Clinton telling Mr. Obama her opposition to Bush's 2007 surge of troops in Iraq was "political." Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski pounced on the comments, saying Clinton has a "history of using politics instead of principle" when making decisions.