Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 1, 2009

A DIFFERENT KIND OF 'DECIDER'.... Defense Secretary Robert Gates has now served in two different administrations. As Satyam Khanna noted, David Gregory asked him this morning to compare the "styles" and "temperaments" of Presidents Bush and Obama.

GATES: 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.

Q: A marked difference from his predecessor?

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 spoken up before.

TP has the video.

This isn't especially surprising -- Obama is more analytical than Bush? You don't say -- but it's nevertheless interesting that Gates was willing to acknowledge this on "Meet the Press."

Indeed, one wonders just how many times it was Gates who wanted to be heard in the Oval Office, but was discouraged from speaking his mind.

Steve Benen 11:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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I thought Gates sounded thoughtful, analytical and non-partisan, and I'm a lot more comfortable with Obama's having kept him on now.

Posted by: Slideguy on March 1, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Bush's favorite questions:
1) Do I want to know?
2) How many terrorists are we going to kill this month?
3) Can't we do that with private contractors?
4) When are we going to open the spigots?
5) Would someone please check and see what's taking Peter Pace so long with those cheeseburgers?

Posted by: Danp on March 1, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

It wouldn't surprise me if the Obama administration needs to spend considerable time "reconditioning" federal employees so they are actually encouraged to provide contrary viewpoints, rather than stifling them so as not to appear "disloyal."

Posted by: Jon Karak on March 1, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"More analytical" and asking for everyone's opinion are code words for micro-managing. Gates just couldn't say it out loud.

Posted by: Al on March 1, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking that Secretary is too professional, too much of the southern gentleman, to say much about what he really thinks about his former and current employers...

Posted by: Zandru on March 1, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

That's "Secretary Gates"

... I thought I had proofread better than that ...

Posted by: Zandru on March 1, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

What a diplomat. I wish we knew the full story of how Bush came to select Gates. Sometimes I think that after the Iraq war went south, Bush discovered he wasn't really president, or maybe it was just after the 2006 election that he discovered it.

Posted by: tomj on March 1, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

With Bush/Cheney the over-riding atmosphere no doubt would have reflected the "decider-in-chief's" prejudice: Dick and I hired these guys, so when they speak, they better agree with us! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 1, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

In the movie "W", the truly chilling scenes, for me, were the ones where Cheney took control. Especially, the one where he spoke of a new American Empire and had several American flags, as bases, superimposed on the map of Iran. Finally, Shrub would say, something, like, "But, he tried to kill my daddy and I'm the decider".

Posted by: berttheclock on March 1, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The video is much more telling than the transcript. Gates works real hard at finding an acceptable way to phrase his response, and there are about thirty seconds taken up with searching for the right words instead of the obvious: "Obama is smart, Bush was a dumbshit."

Posted by: jcricket on March 1, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

More analytical than George W. Bush? The soft bigotry of low expectations.

Posted by: Ken D. on March 1, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view

As I recall, during the 2000 campaign Bush's surrogates were all on television saying that Bush was "a good listener". I'd never heard that used as a compliment for anyone older than five or six years old. Well, OK, maybe by a girl about a new boyfriend.

Posted by: Danp on March 1, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is analytical and the moron Bush was less interested in hearing various (read: opposing) points of view? I'm very unsuprised, very unsurprised.

Posted by: Tec on March 1, 2009 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Think Progress has this update now:
UpdateOn CNN, former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie responded to Gates' comments, saying "of course" Bush listened to everybody. But he acknowledged Gates' key point and tried to explain why Bush didn't call on others. "If they didn't [offer their own view], you know, everybody has their own style. I'm not sure how much benefit you get from pressing someone who didn't want to volunteer something."

Gillespie might have something there, about everybody having their own style and not everyone being keen on volunteering. But. I still think Obama's approach is *way* smarter.

It may, in part, stem from his professorial past -- drawing out students who're reluctant to participate is common practice among the better teachers; oftentimes, students have low opinion of themselves, which is what stops them from volunteering. But, when called upon, they "deliver" as well as the "me, me, ask me!" crowd. It teaches those shy ones self-respect. And, it keeps the layabouts on their toes :)

Obama's approach is also smart politically. People who opine on a subject, in public, "own" their opinion and a bit of the subject. If their opinion is discarded but later proves to have been correct, they hold the "I told you so" card. If their opinion proves to have been without merit, perhaps they'll give it more thought the next time, before making a pronouncement. And, as in a classroom situation... If you have no opinion at all, what are you doing here, wasting everyone else's oxygen?

Of course, I don't believe, for a minute, Gillespie's rationale. Bush didn't ask for more opinions, because, for him, listening to the few that *were* offered was, probably, too boring and too much mental effort to sort through. Not to mention that, to him, any opinion that didn't simply re-word his own position would have been both offensive and threatening.

Posted by: exlibra on March 1, 2009 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Al, and similarly disparaged detractors--please note the definition of analytical:
Skilled in using analysis.
Analysis: In logic, the tracing of things to their source, the resolving of knowledge into its original principles.
A separating or breaking up of any whole into its parts as to find out their nature, proportion,
function, relationship, etc.

Intellective: the power to understand
Intellect: great mental ability; high intelligence, from the Latin, menaing perceiving, understanding.

Posted by: webster on March 2, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

I think this is the right approach. Everyone in the room with the president should be prepared to offer his or her opinion on the issue at hand. The president's time is important, anyone who doesn't have an opinion, shouldn't be in the room.

Posted by: Aaron on March 2, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK



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