Michael Barone looks at Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates’ book on the presidents and finds some interesting perspectives. An excerpt:
He served in the White House under four presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush. And, as deputy to William Casey and then William Webster, he had ready access to the Reagan White House. As a career civil servant, albeit one who rose rapidly and to very high ranks, Gates tends to see continuity between different administrations. He argues in his memoirs, for example, that many of Reagan's policies had their roots in the Carter administration, including the defense buildup and the stress on human rights: "Indeed, the secret that all five of the Presidents and their political advisers hid from the American public was the extraordinary continuity in U.S. dealings with the Soviet Union from administration to administration. Hidden because, regardless of philosophy, the public approach of challengers in our politics is usually to tear down rather than to promise to build upon the work of incumbents—especially if the incumbent is of the other party.
"In truth, the roots of Nixon's SALT negotiations and his strategic programs were, for the most part, in the Johnson administration. Ford embraced Nixon's détente until Soviet actions forced a change. Carter's human-rights campaign built on Ford's signature of the Helsinki Declaration. He continued all but one of Nixon's strategic weapons programs as well as, ultimately, Ford's approach to SALT. Reagan's strategic programs, covert confrontation with the Soviets in the Third World, economic pressures, eventual engagement on arms control, and attacks on the legitimacy of the Soviet government itself built on Carter's efforts in each arena—even though partisans of both Presidents would rather have their tongues turn black and fall out than admit this."