POLITICS
01/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gates Has Canceled On Bush To Meet With Obama Team

At a brief news conference in Kandahar, Afghanistan, an Afghan reporter asked Robert M. Gates, President Bush's defense secretary, the first, pertinent question: Just what was President-elect Barack Obama's policy for his war-weary country?

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What was originally conceived as a goodbye tour for a lame-duck defense secretary instead offered a preview of the president-elect's strategy for winding down one war, building up another and tackling the issue of Iran. Mr. Gates acknowledged that effectively working for two commanders in chief created certain strains.

"I'm not forgetting at all, for a second, who is the president until noon on Jan. 20," Mr. Gates told reporters on his plane en route to Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he said, the transition "does create some occasional awkwardness."

For example? "Well," he said, offering a sampling of apparent recent conversations with schedulers in the West Wing, " 'I would love to come to this meeting at the White House, but I actually have a meeting with the transition.' "

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