Updated at 4:25 and 4:35 pm EST
Retired Defense Secretary Robert Gates is braced for questions about the critique of the White House embodied in his widely sought memoir, “Duty,” that hits the bookstores Tuesday.
As part of a media blitz for his book, Gates appeared this morning on NBC’s “Today” show — with a neck-brace in place from a fractured first vertebrae. The device puffs his cheecks to “Alvin the Chipmunk” proportions, Gates joked when we caught up with him in “Today’s” Green Room.
The brace is not causing him any pain, Gates said. He’ll need to wear it for 10 weeks.
One thing that’s brightening Gates’ outlook is the printing rush for “Duty.” Even before hitting stores, the book has gone through four printings — to 215,000 copies, up from an original 140,000, according to his publicist Paul Bogaards.
Gates will leave the Big Apple for appearances later this week in Washington, including a Thursday afternoon book signing at the Pentagon, where he served as defense secretary under Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican George W. Bush before that.
One repeated theme in “Duty” is Gates’ growing admiration for U.S. troops that turned into what he wrote was a love so strong it may have clouded his judgment.
We asked how long it took to emotionally distance himself from the troops he so loved and respected. Gates paused before answering.
“It took quite a while,” he said. “And I guess that process was delayed by reliving it, writing the book.”
The memories were revived “as I went back” through the stories of severely wounded troops he met, including Army Private Brendan Marrocco, the Iraq’s war’s first quadruple amputee, “and as I went back” over the photographs of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in German where the most severely U.S. military wounded are initially treated “and things like that.”
“I don’t get choked up anymore but it still has a big impact,” Gates said. “It always will.”
From Today to Yahoo!, the Gates interview tour is a multi-platform event.
Gates told Couric that his beef was more with White House staff than the president, though the leader sets the tone.
And Obama today attempted to deflect some of the criticism Gates aimed at his administration.
Obama praised Gates’s “outstanding” service.
“What’s important is that we got the policy right, but that this is hard, and it always has been,” Obama told reporters today. “Whenever you’ve got men and women that you’re sending into harm’s way, after having already made enormous investments of blood and treasure in another country, then part of your job as commander in chief is to sweat the details on it.”
“You’re constantly asking yourself” how you can improve the strategy,” he said. “War is never easy.”
“During his tenure here, Secretary Gates was an outstanding secretary of defense, a good friend of mine, and I’ll always be grateful for his service.”