A candid Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that in these months before the inauguration, being the choice of Pentagon chief for both President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama "does create some occasional awkwardness."
He offered an example: "Well, I'd love to come to this meeting at the White House, but I actually have a meeting with the [Obama] transition" team. What to do in that situation? "First of all, it depends," Gates continued. "I haven't missed any meeting with the president, let me put it that way, but let's just say that if I'm faced with a choice between attending a principals' meeting on an issue I think is not particularly hot and meeting with the transition folks, I'll opt for the latter."
That said, Gates added, "As both the president and the president-elect have said, there's only one commander in chief at a time, so I'm not forgetting at all who's the president."
The remarks came as Gates was flying to Afghanistan on what was originally going to be a farewell tour.