Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was clearly reluctant to answer David Gregory’s question about the contrasting leadership styles between President Bush and President Obama. But when pressed he explained that Obama is “more analytical” and goes further out of his way to hear from diverse viewpoints:
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.
This is a reminder of a point that I think’s been difficult to fully articulate in the Chas Freeman debate. I think there’s truth to the criticisms of Freeman’s hard-bitten strain of realpolitik. But no administration is monolithic, and given the disastrous consequences of our 2002-2006 flirtation with total irrealism I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all to have some Freeman-style ballast on the ship. If Obama seemed to be assembling an entire administration that was unconcerned with human rights abroad, that would be another thing, but that’s not what’s happening here.