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Adviser: Gates Could Stay At Pentagon If Obama Wins

ROBERT BURNS | October 2, 2008 11:28 AM EST | AP

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WASHINGTON — A senior adviser to Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday that the Democrat might see Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a candidate to remain at the Pentagon if Obama wins the White House.

Without explicitly endorsing Gates for the job or predicting Obama's selection, Richard Danzig told reporters that Gates has exhibited leadership qualities that an Obama administration would value.

Danzig, who served as Navy secretary in the Clinton administration and is a senior national security adviser to the Obama campaign, cited Gates' pragmatic approach and his advocacy for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects. He said Gates has been a good defense secretary.

"He'd be an even better one in an Obama administration," Danzig said. "Why do I think that? Because many of the kinds of efforts he's made are in tune with what we are trying to do."

Danzig mentioned Gates' push to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan and to increase greatly the size of the Afghan national army. "These are things that Sen. Obama agrees with and I agree with."

Danzig added that he has not discussed any individual candidates for defense secretary with Obama.

"These decisions are for later," he said.

Danzig himself is often mentioned as a possible Obama choice for defense secretary.

Gates has drawn bipartisan praise for his work at the Pentagon, marked by better relations with the Congress and a perception of holding the military services more accountable for missteps.

Gates, who took over at the Pentagon in December 2006 after Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned, has said repeatedly that he looks forward to retiring from public service in January and has no intention of remaining in Washington. Gates, 65, is a former CIA director and served in the White House under Democratic as well as Republican presidents.

Earlier this week, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates has not changed his view on retiring.

"The circumstances under which he will stay on are inconceivable to him," Morrell said. "But he learned long ago never to say never. And I think that's still operative today."

Danzig also said he believes it would be smart for Obama, if elected, to consider people like Gates who have served in Republican administrations.

"I personally believe that an administration that took advantage of some of the skills of people who are Republicans, or independents as well, would be a stronger administration," he said. "That doesn't translate to a prediction about Secretary Gates."

Filed by Rachel Weiner  |  Report Corrections