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Axelrod: Gates' stories about Obama 'vague' and 'subjective'

Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:10 AM ET

Video: Former senior adviser to President Obama and NBC News senior political analyst David Axelrod says he was surprised by the criticism from former Defense Secretary Bob Gates about the White House administration in an upcoming memoir.

A former top White House advisor on Wednesday vigorously rejected claims by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates that President Obama lacked commitment on key military decisions overseas and even based some of them — particularly those involving Iraq — on politics.

The president opposed American intervention on Iraq from the beginning, even when he was a U.S. senator who voted against authorizing the effort, former senior Obama aide David Axelrod told TODAY's Matt Lauer. 

"There was never a political discussion about this because his position on it was absolutely clear,” he said.

In a new memoir written by Gates, the former Pentagon chief also said Obama lacked commitment to decisions he made about his strategy in Afghanistan. 

Gates will appear Monday on TODAY to discuss his book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” in a live interview.

Axelrod said he was surprised when he read the newspaper reports about the memoir because Gates never appeared critical or showed signs of being disgruntled with the president.

“I was surprised when I saw the stories yesterday because I always felt they had a good working relationship. He always indicated they had a good working relationship with the president,” he said. "And the stories themselves are confusing."

Axelrod said Gates gave conflicting descriptions of meetings with the president, according to accounts of his memoirs.

“I’m not suggesting he made things up to sell a book but I think the language that he used, for example on that Iraq story, was vague and it was subjective," he said. 

"There was no declaration on the president’s part that he made that decision on a political basis. There wouldn’t have been because, as I said, he was opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning, for all the reasons that Bob Gates suggests in his book that he opposed the war in Iraq, because he thought it was a deflection from Afghanistan." 

Watch TODAY Monday for Matt Lauer's live interview with Robert Gates.