Even in this year of political outsiders, being a Washington insider had advantages for at least one powerful figure. Robert Gates assumed the leadership of the Pentagon in late 2006, at a time when the great five-sided symbol of U.S. power had begun to seem withered not only by the two wars it was struggling to fight but by the controversies surrounding its boss for the previous six years, Donald Rumsfeld. Though a longtime Republican hand, Gates won bipartisan praise in 2008 for his administration of the Afghan and Iraq campaigns. So steady was Gates' hand over the chronically infighting Defense Department that even President-elect Obama, who has long argued against the Iraq war that Gates supervises, has decided to keep Gates in his post.
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