October 2, 2008 / 9:17 PM / 11 years ago

Obama aide praises Pentagon chief Gates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama praised U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday, saying he could be an even better Pentagon chief in an Obama administration.

Richard Danzig, a former secretary of the U.S. Navy who advises Obama on national security policy, said Gates was in tune with the Illinois senator’s thinking on many issues.

“I think Secretary Gates has been a good secretary of defense,” Danzig told defense reporters. “I think he’d be an even better one in an Obama administration.”

Gates, a former CIA director seen as a pragmatist, has won praise from both Democrats and Republicans since taking over from the combative Donald Rumsfeld in late 2006.

Gates has said he cannot conceive of circumstances under which he would stay on in the next administration.

But he has also stressed the importance of a smooth transition during a time of war, prompting speculation that he could stay for at least an interim period after Obama or his Republican rival John McCain moves into the White House.

Danzig cited Gates’ pragmatism, his efforts to close down the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and his decisions to increase troop levels in Afghanistan as positions that chimed with Obama.

“Many of the kinds of efforts he’s made are in tune with what we’re trying to do,” he said.

But Danzig said he had not discussed the possibility of retaining Gates with Obama.

“My feeling is these decisions are for later, and if Sen. Obama’s elected,” Danzig said.

Reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Eric Walsh

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