Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said on Monday Washington needed more “adults” in politics, especially in dealing with the country’s budget and debt and possible sequestration that could cut billions from the country’s defense budget.
At a national security discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Mullen and Gates lashed out at Congress for the impasse on the budget and looming sequestration cuts, which would reduce defense spending by nearly a trillion dollars in the next decade would lead to a “hollow” defense force, according to The Hill.
“Too many politicians are concerned about winning elections and scoring ideological points than saving the country,” Gates said. “My hope is following the presidential election, whatever adults remain in the two political parties will make the compromises necessary to put the country back in order.”
Gates also said at the event that politics has always been a “a shrill and ugly business” and “we have now lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government” because of polarization.
President Barack Obama has caused much of that polarization, though. When Democrats controlled Congress during Obama’s first two years as president, he did not want to trouble himself getting to know Republican leaders. Bob Woodward has reported that Obama lacked the “stamina” and will to reach across the aisle to try for bipartisanship and bridge Washington’s partisan divide, which Obama promised he would do in 2008. And the Senate, which Democrats controlled, has not passed a budget in nearly four years.
Furthermore, the White House came up with the idea for sequestration, in order to use it as leverage against Republicans. And Democrats in recent months have openly threatened to take the country off the fiscal cliff during the lame duck session of Congress — for partisan political gain — by letting the Bush tax cuts expire across all income levels while mandated spending cuts are triggered.
At the national security conference, Mullen said he was “not as hopeful as others that we won’t drive off this cliff.”
“I’m worried sick about it, quite frankly,” Mullen said.