"Extreme polarization" in the U.S. is the "greatest threat" to the country's democracy, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Why it matters: The Republican, who served eight presidents, including stints as CIA director, and later as defense secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, added that the "greatest threat is found within the two square miles that encompass the White House and the Capitol Building."
Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free
"The attack on the Capitol was the first time armed enemies of democracy had been in the Capitol since the War of 1812," said Gates on the Jan. 6 insurrection, noting that "seeing somebody parading through the Capitol carrying a Confederate flag, that never happened during the Civil War. "
Gates also said in his interview with Anderson Cooper that he's confused by some lawmakers who are in "denial" about the Capitol riot.
What else he's saying: "These same people who were terrified on January 6th, and whose lives were in danger, to now basically say, 'Well, these are just your normal tourists,'" Gates said, in an apparent reference to Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), who's described the attack as such previously.
"The whole of our society seems to be coming unhinged," Gates said. "I've never seen so much hatred."
Of note: On former President Trump's repeated baseless claims that he didn't lose the 2020 presidential election, Gates said: "It underscores the theme that China is sounding around the world that the United States political system doesn't work, and that the United States is a declining power."