From an interview on "Face the Nation" today. John Dickerson had asked Gates about what he thought of Ben Rhodes referring to the American foreign policy establishment as "the blob":
GATES: "[T]the blob" presumably includes Brent Scowcroft, who was deeply opposed to the Iraq War. It presumably includes me. I was deeply opposed to the intervention in Libya. It presumably includes George Schulz, who has argued for getting rid of nuclear weapons, along with Bill Perry, former secretary of defense. So "the blob" is as diverse in its points of view as any group of people around. The one thing that members of that elite group have in -- that have in -- that have in common is experience. And some of them have given bad advice. Some of us have given bad advice in the past. Some of us have given pretty good advice. But to lump everybody together and say -- and really the candidates kind of do that. And to say, I don't need those people, I don't want those people, is to dismiss an awful lot of experience and a very great diversity of views on the challenges we face and how to deal with them.This idea of a President receiving lots of different opinions is important to Gates. He brought it up in connection to Trump:
DICKERSON: The president's characterization of that establishment was that the reaction to any event anywhere else is always kind of -- the president has to act and act militarily.
GATES: Well, and the irony in that is, I opposed the intervention in Libya. I mean my reaction in the situation room was, during those debates, can I just finish the two wars we're already in before you go looking for a third one. So, again, I -- I think that there is this sort of political shorthand of lumping people together that really doesn't make any sense and, frankly, is a disservice.
"[H]e seems to think that he has all the answers and that he doesn't need any advice from staff or anybody else, and that he knows more about these things than anybody else, and doesn't really feel the need to surround himself with informed advisers."Gates has worked with 8 Presidents, and:
"[E]ach one of those presidents, as strong-minded as each of them was, understood he did not have all the answers, and surrounded himself with experienced, thoughtful people who would give good advice, and they were willing to listen. They would often make their own independent judgments. They often would act contrary to the advice they were receiving. But, nonetheless, they only acted after they had listened to different points of view and then had the opportunity to make up their mind."Dickerson prompted Gates to say that Trump had "a fatal flaw," but the ever-sober Gates offered advice to Trump: Show that you are "willing to listen to people, willing to adjust your positions." But would he serve in a Trump administration?
"Well, I learned a long time ago never to say never. But let's just say that would be inconceivable to me.""Inconceivable" sounds very strong, but as we know from the meme, a person may say it without close attention to the meaning.