Defense Secretary Gates is loosening up in his public comments as the exit sign beckons. When Katie Couric asked him for a "60 Minutes" profile to briefly describe each of the presidents he's known, he did so, in an passage that for some reason was posted only on the web:
Nixon: "probably one of our strangest presidents," brilliant at foreign policy, but "a distorted personality"
Carter: "he could not establish priorities"
Reagan: One of his favorites:. "a historic president," "slyer," and "more manipulative" than he is perceived.
Bush the elder: "helped bring the Cold War to a peaceful close"
Bush the younger: Only knew him at the end of his term, found him at that point at least to be very non-political.
Obama: "very thoughtful…an easy decisionmaker."
In the main interview, which did air, Gates said that the Pentagon over last 10 years has had a culture of an "open checkbook."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.