Robert Gates warns: 'We are now in uncharted waters' with our dysfunctional politics

Robert Gates warns: 'We are now in uncharted waters' with our dysfunctional politics

Post by Leroy N. Soetor » Tue, 18 Oct 2011 16:00:04

Yes, we are a few days late getting through an accumulated pile of
reading. But better late than never in this case.

These are the worthy remarks of Robert Gates, the newly-former secretary
of Defense and former numerous other things in government and the
intelligence community.

They are not very long, as Washington remarks go. But then Gates didn't
give them in Washington. He spoke in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 at the
National Constitution Center upon receiving its Liberty Medal.

You should read them because of the man's intelligence, thoughtfulness and
long experience in our troubled national capitol. Freed from the team
loyalty obligations of serving one administration or another, he speaks
more candidly than we've seen him on the Sunday talk shows.

Gates, an Eagle Scout from Kansas who just turned 68, has some pointed
observations to make about why Washington has become so dysfunctional.
(You can skip over the divisive media part; he obviously doesn't know what
he's talking about.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech by Robert Gates, as provided by the
National Constitution Center

First of all, I am deeply honored. Thank you, Captain Odierno and Sergeant

Captain, Ive had some interaction with your father over time; you follow
in a great tradition. And I thank you for both of your service to your
country and for the outstanding work of the organizations you represent.

First of all, I would say that this evening is a reminder that astrology
exists to give....

...credibility to weather forecastingand intelligence estimatesso thank
you all for your patience. Im grateful to Governor Corbett for his
remarks tonight and to the other distinguished leaders for their kind
words. And a special word of appreciation to Bob and Lee Woodruff for
everything theyve done on behalf of our wounded warriors and their
To David Eisner and your staff, thank you for making today such a special
occasion for me. In just eight years, the National Constitution Center has
justly earned its strong reputation for creating an innovative museum
experienceone that I enjoyed earlier todayand for being a forum for
dialogue about Americas founding documents and principles.

And, of course, thanks to the Aggie Wranglers, the Air Forces Singing
Sergeants, and Richie McDonald.

It is a true honor to join the ranks of the men and women who have
received this Liberty Medal. The official citation for the medal talks
about honoring those who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to
people around the globe.

Yet, in this of all placeswhere the American creed and system of
government was bornand during this of all timeswhen our nations capitol
appears choked by deadlock and dysfunctionI want to share some thoughts
on the state of government and politics here at home, how the institutions
set up to secure the blessings of liberty for the American people are
measuring up at such a challenging time for our country.

In recent years it has become common for pundits and other high-minded
folks to lament the rancor of todays politics. Of course, as the
historians here at the Center will tell you, American politics was a
contact sport from the very beginningand a dirty one at that. John Adams,
for example, was once called a hideous hermaphroditical character who has
neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and
sensibility of a woman. Nor were the other Founding Fathers spared
similar vile attacks.

So vitriol and nastiness in American politics are nothing new. Nor is the
failure of our political system to deal with issues that divide the
country along ideological, cultural, or regional linesjust think of the
years leading up to the Civil War. In more recent decades, crises such as
Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and an impeachment all convulsed the
American political system.

In each case, however painful and divisive these episodes were, our
governing institutions recovered their equilibrium and ability to

And, let us not forget that Americas Founding Fathers designed our system
of government primarily to protect libertynot to promote speed and
efficiency. So it is with good reason that Will Rogers used to say, I
dont tell jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

Having said all that, I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters
when it comes to the dysfunction in our political systemand it is no
longer a joking matter. It appears that as a result of several long-
building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost
the ability to execute even the basic functions of government, much less
solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country.

Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of
American governance.

Several developments have put us in this predicament, three of which I
would like to highlight in the next couple of minutes.

First, as a result of a highly partisan redistricting process, more and
more seats in the House of Representatives are safe for either the
Republican or Democratic Party. As a result, the really consequential
campaigns are not the mostly lopsided general elections, but the party
primaries, where candidates must cater to the most hard-core ideological
elements of their base.

So how do we ensure that more candidates for Congress are forced to appeal
to independents, centrists, and at least some members of the other
political party to win election, just as presidential candidates must do?

Second, addressing this countrys most intractable and complex problems
requires a consistent strategy and implementation across multiple
presidencies and congresses. The best historical example of this was the
Cold War.

Despite great differences in tactics and approaches, the basic contours of
the strategy to contain the Soviet Union remained constant through nine
presidential administrations of both political parties, even between
presidents as different as President Carter and President Reagan, as I
know from first-hand experience.

But when one party wins big in a wave electionof which there have been
several in recent election cyclesit typically seeks to impose its agenda
on the other side by brute force.

This makes it all the more likely that the policies will be reversed in
the next wave election and,
consequently, all the more difficult to deal with this countrys most
serious challenges over time.

I would like to suggest that more humility in victory is needed, and with
that a search for broadly supported policies to address our problemsbe
they the national debt, illegal immigration, crumbling infrastructure,
underperforming schools, or our budget deficitpolicies and programs that
can and must endure beyond one congress or one president to be successful.

Third, there are vast changes in the composition and role of the news
media over the past two decades. When I entered CIA 45 years ago last
month, three television networks and a handful of newspapers dominated
coverage and, to a considerable degree, filtered extreme or vitriolic
points of view.

Today, with hundreds of cable channels, blogs and other electronic media,
every point of view, including the most extreme, has a ready vehicle for
wide dissemination. You cant reverse history or technology, and this
system is clearly more democratic and open, but there is also no question
that it has fueled the coarsening and, I believe, the dumbing down of the
national political dialogue.

As a result of these and other polarizing factors, the moderate centerthe
foundation of our political system and our stabilityis not holding. Just
at a time when this country needs more continuity, more bipartisanship,
and more compromise to deal with our most serious problems, all the trends
are pointing in the opposite direction.

Indeed, compromise has become a dirty wordtoo often synonymous with a
lack of principles or selling out. Yet, our entire system of government
has depended upon compromise.

The Constitution itself is a bundle of compromises. Critical ideas and
progress in our history often have come from thinkers and ideologues on
both the left and the right. But, for the most part, the laws and policies
that ultimately implement the best of those ideas have come from the vital
political center, and usually as the result of compromise.

I have worked for eight presidents, and I have known many politicians of
both parties over nearly five decades, and I never met one who had a
monopoly on revealed truth.

At a time when our country faces deep economic and other challenges at
home and a world that just keeps getting more complex and more dangerous,
those who think that they alone have the right answers, those who demonize
those who think differently, and those who refuse to listen and take other
points of view into accountthese leaders, in my view, are a danger to the
American people and to the future of our republic.

A final thought. I believe that both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald
Reagan were great presidentsone the epitome of a liberal Democrat, the
other the epitome of a conservative Republican. They both changed the
country for the better, but both were pragmatic politicians willing to
compromise in order to advance their respective agendas.

Todays political leaders and those who aspire to lead would do well to
follow their example. Their willingness to do so will determine this
countrys future prospects as a great power and as a republic, because the
warning given a long time ago by Benjamin Franklinthat great
Pennsylvanianstill applies:

Either we hang together or we will surely all hang separately.

Thank you again for this great honor, and God bless our republic and the
compromises on which it was founded.

Obama's black racist USAG appointee.

Eric Holder, racist black United States Attorney General drops voter
intimidation charges against the Black Panthers,  "You are about to be
ruled by the black man, cracker!"

Eric Holder, prejudiced black United States Attorney General settles the
hate crime debate, "Whites Not Protected by Hate Crime Laws."

Nancy Pelosi, Democrat criminal, accessory before and after the fact, to
former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New
York's million dollar tax evasion.  

Barack Obama and Eric Holder,  committed treason by knowingly and
deliberately arming enemies of the United States of America through
Operation Fast and Furious.  Complicit in the *** of Federal employees
during the execution of their duties.