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White House on defense over Gates book

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Barack Obama and Joe Biden talk during a photo-op as they meet for lunch in the Private Dining Room of the White House on Wednesday.

The White House continued to defend President Barack Obama’s leadership style and affirm his relationship with Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday in the face of harsh accusations by Obama’s former defense secretary.

“The fact that there were some debates in the prolonged policy review over Afghanistan is hardly news,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters who peppered him with questions about the memoir by former Pentagon chief Robert Gates.

White House Press Secretary reacts to a new book written by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates offers criticism of the Obama administration's handling of foreign policy in the book.

Carney described Gates’ reports of disagreements between Obama's political team and military leaders as merely part of the president’s “Team of Rivals” strategy to encourage “robust” discussions about policies.

In his book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates charges that Obama did not “believe in his own strategy” to win the war in Afghanistan.

The onetime defense secretary, who served under both President George W. Bush and Obama, also slammed the judgment of close Obama confidante Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates wrote of the president’s second-in-command.

On Wednesday, Carney repeated the administration’s statement that Obama disagrees with Gates’ views about Biden.

“The president greatly values the counsel of the vice president on matters foreign and domestic,” he added.

And Carney dismissed suspicion that the White House’s decision to allow photographers brief access to a weekly private lunch between Obama and Biden was specifically designed to illustrate their closeness in response to the Gates book.  

“It was a coincidence,” Carney said, saying that the White House press corps had been asking for more access to such events.