Keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defense is starting to look like Barack Obama’s shrewdest personnel move, argues Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal. As someone appointed by the last two Republican presidents, Gates “brought to the table a credibility that no Obama appointee would have had,” giving Obama cover on a bunch of hard decisions, like endorsing the release of secret "torture" memos and fighting the release of more abuse photos.
Gates also had the authority to replace Afghanistan commander David McKiernan with counterinsurgency expert Stanley McChrystal with barely a peep from left or right. His rollout of a radically different Pentagon budget was handled masterfully, limiting outcry from bruised lawmakers whose districts are addicted to endangered contracts. In each case, both sides listened because Gates occupies a unique position. “He has nothing left to prove, nobody to impress, no next job to covet.”