Robert Gates, CIA director and conservative policy wonk

Robert Michael Gates was born September 25, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas. After graduating from William & Mary with a degree in history, Robert headed off to Indiana University, where he received his master's degree in history. He then applied for an earned a grant to attend graduate school at Georgetown University and attend doctoral school for Russian and Soviet history. Upon graduation, he began working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Over the next 25 years, Gates worked his way up from his entry level position to become the Director of the CIA, the only career officer in the agency's history to do so. Over the years he served on the National Security Council for Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush. In 1986, he was named Deputy Director of the CIA, and in 1991 he was named Director of the CIA, a position he held until January 1993, when he was replaced by James Woolsey.

During his tenure in the CIA, Gates was awarded a number of medals, including the National Security Medal and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA's highest honor - a medal he earned thrice in his career at the agency. However, he is perhaps most noted for his hardline anti-Soviet stance, one cemented by years of early analysis during the height of the Cold War during the late 1960s. In 1982 when he was named Deputy Director of Intelligence under director William Casey, he used his position to push hard for intelligence that could be used to make the Soviet Union look bad. Occasionally this led to incidents where reports were slanted and one-sided, leaving out critical bits of information that would nullify the conclusions of the reports. During Gates' CIA Director confirmation hearings, he was accused of making intelligence political - but the charges were dismissed as being frivolous, and he was confirmed by a large majority.

Gates has kept busy since he left the CIA. In 1996, he published a book, From The Shadows, his insider's tale about the Cold War and its eventual end in 1989. He has also served on the board of trustees for a number of companies, including Brinker International and NACCO Industries, and serves on the board of directors of America Abroad Media, which produces the "America Abroad" radio show in tandem with the international newsmagazine The Economist. In 2002, he was named to succeed Ray Bowen as the 22nd President of Texas A&M University, home to the presidential library of Gates' former co-worker and boss, George H. W. Bush. The appointment comes after serving three years as the Dean of the Government School at A&M.

On November 8, 2006, shortly after the Democratic Party's retaking of the House and Senate, George W. Bush indicated that he was firing Donald Rumsfeld and replacing him as Secretary of Defense with none other than Robert Gates. Gates will be a great pick, as he is much more of a Reagan conservative, an insider with the CIA (meaning intelligence is back in the saddle again), and all in all much less likely to be smitten with the White House chicanery of late.

Despite Gates' conservative political leanings and the general unsavoriness that comes with being associated with the CIA's rather sordid political history, he is a very well-spoken and considerate individual. He is just as quick to admit his failures as take credit for his successes, and in person he strikes one as more of a career bureaucrat than a politician. And, unlike many of his contemporaries, Gates does not seem to have any real egg on his face despite nearly 30 years in Washington, D.C. Whether it's his modest demeanor or his years of experience in keeping secrets, it's a fairly impressive accomplishment in 20th century American politics.

For a great read and a good general insight into Robert Gates' line of thinking and personality, check out his interview with PBS's Frontline for their in-depth analysis of the 1991 Gulf War with Iraq at

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