Image: Barack Obama, left, Michael Mullen and Robert Gates
Jim R. Bounds  /  AP
President Barack Obama arrives at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C., on Friday, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, right, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen.
updated 3/1/2009 3:27:24 PM ET 2009-03-01T20:27:24

Tell us, Robert Gates, what's the difference between working under Barack Obama and working under George W. Bush as defense secretary?

"That sounds like the subject of a good book," Gates said with a smile.

"It's really hard to say," he continued during an interview aired Sunday on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

"I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical. And he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don't speak up, he calls on them."

And the former president?

"President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't spoken up before," Gates said.

Bush picked Gates to succeed Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary in November 2006. The following June, Gates recommended that Bush appoint Adm. Mike Mullen as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's top military officer.

When Mullen was asked Sunday to compare the styles of the two presidents, he demurred.

"Well, I think individuals are always different," Mullen said on "State of the Union" on CNN. "But, you know, I mean, I wouldn't characterize them one way or the other."

That said, Mullen remarked that Obama listens to his military advisers.

"He's anxious to get the military's input to all his decisions," Mullen said. "The discussions have been broad and deep, and I've been very comfortable both with the access and the ability to give that advice."

Both Gates and Mullen remained in their positions in the opening weeks of the Obama administration. Gates told NBC that it would be "a challenge" to serve as defense secretary for the entirety of Obama's term.

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Video: Gates compares Obama, Bush

  1. Transcript of: Gates compares Obama, Bush

    MR. GREGORY: How long will you stay as secretary of defense under President Obama ?

    SEC'Y GATES: Well, I think that's probably up to the president.

    MR. GREGORY: In your mind, though, would you stay for his entire first term?

    SEC'Y GATES: That would be a challenge.

    MR. GREGORY: Do you have a date certain in your mind of when you'd like to go?

    SEC'Y GATES: No.

    MR. GREGORY: There's some thought you might stay maybe a year and a day, and that's it.

    SEC'Y GATES: No date in mind.

    MR. GREGORY: What's the difference between working -- what's different between working for President Obama vs. President Bush ?

    SEC'Y GATES: That sounds like the subject of a good book.

    MR. GREGORY: Is that a book you're planning on writing? Are they different presidents? Do they have different styles, different temperaments?

    SEC'Y GATES: Oh, sure.

    MR. GREGORY: What's the major difference to you?

    SEC'Y GATES: I -- that's -- it's really hard to say. I think that, I think that probably President Obama is, is somewhat more analytical, and, and, he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don't speak up, he calls on them.

    MR. GREGORY: A marked difference from his predecessor?

    SEC'Y GATES: President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view but didn't go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn't, if they hadn't spoken up before.

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