Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that he believes the extreme political polarization in the U.S. is the greatest threat the country faces. Gates, who served as defense secretary under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, made the comments in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Gates made the remarks during an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face The Nation” with host Margaret Brennan.
“I think it is the polarization in the country,” Gates said when asked what he thought was the greatest danger to the U.S. “We’ve always had polarization in America. If you go back to the Jefferson, Adams presidential race in 1800, the things that were said in that election would fit right into a current political environment. But what’s been different, more recently, is not just a measure of paralysis, as indicated by the debt ceiling, but a level of meanness and a lack of civility among our politicians, or the- the sense that somebody who disagrees with you is not just somebody you disagree with, but is an enemy, is a bad person.”
“This lack of civility is I think, something new and- and really is pretty pervasive in the Congress,” he said. “And it sets a pretty bad example for the rest of the country.”
Gates said that political leaders should not “demonize people to disagree with them” and that Republicans and Democrats needed to find better ways to work with each other.
Gates also said that the United States needs to take China seriously and that it needs to work to deter China from aggression. He said that the United States needs to build up its military capabilities and that it needs to work with its allies to counter China’s growing power.
“We need to be prepared to deter China from taking any aggressive actions,” Gates said. “And we need to be prepared to work with our allies to counter China’s growing power.”