Gates' reproaches toward Congress -- micromanagerial, hypocritical and the rest -- go the heart of the complaint against politics as presently practiced. Take Harry Reid, the Democrats' Senate leader, an ex-boxer whose sense of strategy constantly tells him, "Wipe the floor with the so-and-sos." And if they object, change the rules -- as the Senate did, at Reid's bidding, to eliminate discussion of the credentials of many presidential appointees. No wonder next-to-nothing passes in that death trap.
Joe Biden's world-class lack of judgment; the controlling nature and "operational meddling" of the Obama national security team; the administration's concern for politics at the expense of good strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq -- all these, as Gates understands them, impeached the competence of Obama's White House. Also, they contributed to outcomes unworthy of the troops whose sacrifices wrung the heart of their boss at the Pentagon.
The former defense secretary will need an armored car if he comes within hailing distance of Pennsylvania Avenue. This is what happens in politics to those who question words and deeds that seem not to match up with reality and sound judgment.
The politics of fantasy yield small space for examining how political boasting and chest thumping play out in the real world. How rewarding, as always, to see fantasy, as fingered by a distinguished public servant, taken to the cleaners: the problem being that we don't see it happen half as often as we need to.