Thursday, April 16, 2009

An honest politician

The US Secretary of State for Defense, Robert Gates, was giving a speech at Maxwell Air Force Base yesterday, to a mixed audience of service personnel and academics.

Unlike our dreary raft of politicians, in an extended session, he then takes questions from all-comers, be they high or low. Some are very pointed, some very technical. He answers them openly, in detail with not a hint of being patronising.

But the mettle of the man is tested when he gets a question on a very specific defence capability. The question does not matter so much as the answer. Gates says: "I think the honest answer to your question is I haven't addressed that yet. I don't know."

It actually takes an enormous amount of courage and self-confidence for a politician to say, "I don't know", instead of delivering yards of pre-formed, extruded verbal material. And the point about this man is that, in due course, he will know, and when he does, he will tell people what he thinks.

One yearns for this quality of politician over here. I am reviewing the speech and will post it on DOTR later.