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White House: ‘Biden Has Been One Of The Leading Statesmen Of His Time’

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and President Barack Obama share a laugh during Gates' Armed Forces Farewell Tribute on the River Parade Field at the Pentagon June 30, 2011 in Arlington, Va. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and President Barack Obama share a laugh during Gates’ Armed Forces Farewell Tribute on the River Parade Field at the Pentagon June 30, 2011 in Arlington, Va. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — The White House is going on the defensive after excerpts released from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new book criticizes President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

According to The New York Times and The Washington Post, in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates accused Biden of “poisoning the well” against military leadership and said the vice president has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration who stepped down in 2011, also had pointed words for his former boss. The former defense secretary and CIA director wrote that Obama didn’t “believe in his own strategy” for Afghanistan and described the distrust the president had for senior military officials.

“All too early in the administration, suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials – including the president and vice president – became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders,” according to an excerpt in The Washington Post.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the White House defended Biden.

“The president disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told CBS News. “President Obama relies on his good counsel every day.”

Gates wrote that the current White House is “by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.”

Former senior White House adviser David Axelrod expressed shock at Gates’ comments in the book.

“He always indicated he had a good working relationship with the president,” he told NBC News.

In an interview Gates did with CBS “Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver that will be aired this weekend, Braver stated that Gates did not back off his criticism of Biden.

“In particular when I talked with the secretary he highlighted what he believed was Biden’s distrust of the military, especially the military generals,” Braver said. “And the fact that Gates believed that Biden was constantly telling President Obama that he had to watch out for these guys, that they were asking for more resources, and that in Gates’ words they were constantly trying to jam the president.”

Gates’ book will be released to the public on Jan. 14.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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