The other thing that I've tried to do, and I know the President has done the same thing -- of course, one of the reasons he wanted to go to Iraq and Afghanistan was to say thank you. And it was an important trip not only substantively, but symbolically, to tell the troops that are there now how much he appreciates what they've done for all of us.
I've done the same thing. Also I've traveled -- as I traveled around the country, I've spent a lot of time hitting military bases, and spending time with troops who are about to deploy or just back from having been deployed. Earlier this year, for example, I went down to Fort Hood -- Ray Odierno came home and brought home the Three Corps flag headquarters and reestablished it at Fort Hood. It had been the corps headquarters when he was in Baghdad. Had a nice ceremony for him down there, and then had the opportunity to speak to several thousand soldiers at Hood, many of whom were just back from their 15-month deployment and I'd spoken to them before they left, and was able to talk to them after they were back.
Spending time with the troops is one of the highlights of this job. I suppose I still am nostalgic for my time as Secretary of Defense in 41's day. That was a great job.
Q Are you going to miss this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I will. It's been a -- it's been a remarkable experience to come back, partly because I spent 25 years, from the time I landed here, I guess the fall of '68, until January of '93, when I left the Defense Department. And in between I -- I've been a junior staffer on the Hill, a bureaucrat in the executive branch, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, congressman for 10 years. But I thought, after 25 years, that's it. I looked -- I thought about running myself, and then decided I wasn't going to do it, and went off to private life, and never expected to come back.
Then to be invited to come back as part of this administration, and now do it for eight years, is something I never thought I'd get to do. And I'm sensitive of the fact that when I first came here in late '68, early '69, came to the White House, at the beginning of the Nixon administration, I was one of the youngest people in the West Wing. And for a long time in the early -- in the first term of this administration, I was the oldest. I think Fred Fielding has got me by a couple of years now -- (laughter) -- but he wasn't here then.
And to have the opportunity to serve, to serve with this President in these times, is something I'll always be grateful for. And I look forward to return to private life. This is the fourth time I've made this transition. It's not my first rodeo, so to speak.
But I will miss it. It's been a great experience, and I'll always be glad that I had the opportunity to be part of it.
Q Do you think you'll tackle your years after you leave here with the same sort of focus and strategic objective, the sort of approach that you I think maybe acquired when you were Secretary of Defense?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it depends on what I decide to do, I suppose.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not at this stage of a mind to retire. I really -- I just haven't had time to focus on it yet in terms of what comes next. So, will I be focused on whatever I do? Yes, I suppose I'm focused when I'm fly-fishing, too. (Laughter.) So that's -- I don't think you can call that any kind of strategic effort, but I work hard at it.
Q What advice do you leave for President Obama? Is there any advice you would leave as the person who is going to inherit this extraordinary government and military?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he's got obviously some very difficult issues that are soon to be on his platter just because of the time we live in. No President gets to choose what issues he has to deal with that come up on his watch. We all -- when we run on a national ticket, as we did in 2000, you've got certain things you want to do and things you tell the people you're going to do if you get elected -- cut taxes, reform education, et cetera. You don't come having run on a platform of, well, we're going to respond to 9/11. Nobody had even conceived that there might be a 9/11 at that point. So you don't get to choose the time in which you govern. And I think that will be true for President Obama, as well.
Very, very important in terms of who you choose, his personnel decisions that occur in the -- during the transition and in the first weeks of the administration are absolutely essential. And I don't -- obviously I've got fundamental differences with President-Elect Obama, Senator Obama still -- but I think some of the personnel decisions he's made are pretty good.
So we'll have to see what happens there. They are -- but keeping Bob Gates on board I think is a -- was a good decision, sound choice. I think Jim Jones, former commandant of the Marine Corps, as National Security Advisor is a -- I think a sound proposition. Senator Clinton as Secretary of State -- I would never pick her to be my Secretary of State.