I met former Defense Secretary Robert Gates while attending the World Food Prize Symposium several years ago. At the time he was president of Texas A&M University.
Gates made a major impression on me. He accepted the university job after serving eight presidents in intelligence, national security and CIA capacities.
As long time subscribers know, I thought that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s performance was a disaster for the country and was elated when George W. replaced him with Gates.
I expressed that in this report at the time. I was elated again when President Obama kept Gates in his Cabinet during his first term. Gates was not an ideologue, which was why he was so useful to presidents of both parties. He functioned as an official of the country staying out of politics.
That doesn’t happen often enough to the country’s disservice.
Gates made news recently after publishing, “Duty: Memoirs as a Secretary at War.” It tilts both good and bad on Obama with a few tidbits the media loves about Hillary and Biden.
What I connected with most closely though was Gates’ opinion of Congress.
I think he, like me, could be held in contempt of members of Congress. He had to endure compulsory hearings where they would grill him.
Imagine being interrogated by people that you find contemptible but could not express that revulsion.
Gates described Congress as, “Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities, micro-managerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self ahead of country.”
I think that was a generous description of Congress. We don’t send our best people to Congress – the most skilled talented people of high character would never be electable today.
Nor would the most desirable, talented people put themselves through the process. We end up with a lot of odd, egotistical, hypocritical ideologues who are weird, but are trying their best to cover it up.
The U.S. is blessed with enormously talented scientists, soldiers, industrialists, entrepreneurs and professionals, but the political system has failed in attracting our best and brightest to represent the people in Congress.
In fact, it does everything it can to discourage their participation. What has always astounded me is how Congressmen treat subjects in hearings as if they were dirt, but the Congressmen themselves doing the questioning act as if they are perfect – perfect jerks maybe. They fake credibility.
Gates could barely tolerate it saying, “All too frequently, sitting at the witness table, the exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be Secretary of Defense, but I am also a citizen, and there is no son of a b@#$% who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else.”
The country is better off for Robert Gates having been defense secretary. Yet Washington won and we are worse off for it.
Gates wrote that, “The broad dysfunction in Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of non-partisan calm, reason and conciliation.”
Gates has something in common with the biofuels industry as he says that the administration breached his faith more than once.
Gates made the observation, “Things don’t happen that way if the president doesn’t want them to happen that way.”
I think that we can surmise that the president approved the EPA revisions to the RFS, essentially rewriting the intent of the law so that it undermines instead of supports biofuel development and commercialization.
We don’t have to focus blame on surrogates like EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for gutting the RFS. President Obama is responsible for it.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack should do what Robert Gates didn’t do, which is resign in indignation.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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