1 FEBRUARY 2014
|NEW YEAR SURPRISE: ROBERT GATES MOST POPULAR AMERICAN
You would have never believed it even a month earlier, that is, in December 2013, that the most predominant American in its mainstream media in the
beginning of 2014 would be Robert Gates. The discreet former head of the CIA, the cool, calm and collected Secretary of Defense for the Republican
President George W. Bush and the Democratic President Barack Obama, was everywhere. In newspaper headlines, Website titles, television news, talk
shows, Robert Gates -- and his new book -- were everywhere, with a dignified presence, a gracious smile or a knowing nod. He even managed very
well on Jon Stewart's comedy news hour, although he came in with obvious neck pain. If Stewart's audience is any measure of public perception, he
received applause when he highlighted the incompetence of Congress; when he stressed his devotion to soldiers sent to the field by distant
politicians; when he explained that launching wars is serious business not to be imposed merely for internal political expediency; when
he said he had fired certain senior officers to get things done and take care of retiring handicapped veterans. Stewart, a tough interviewer, seemed
as admiring as his audience.
It was not just because he had issued a book about his term as Defense Secretary entitled "Duty." By normal standards, it could have been a boring event.
The book is over 600 pages. It is doubtful that any reviewer or interviewer read it in full. The author is a very restrained U.S. public
servant, perhaps one of the best, but not known for his popular outreach. He didn't even seem to try whenever he appeared. Yet, he must have struck a
deep popular cord in his main themes. It maybe disappointment with politicians influencing decisions in Washington, D.C.; maybe it is frustration
with ongoing bickering within each of the two main parties without visible practical results; maybe it is uncertainty facing major
challenges around the world and particularly in places where U.S. troops are facing serious challenges; maybe it is dismay with public officials trying
to use the military for political expediency.
In brief, it may be a crisis in leadership. And Robert Gates looked as if he's got it.