Gates: Best Presidents Don’t Think They Are Smartest Guy in the Room

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked what question he would ask potential presidential candidates, he said the greatest presidents were all men who “never considered themselves the smartest guy in the room.”

Gates said, “I think the question is, what kind of people do you want around you to advise you? I think that the — there is a great quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. about FDR. He said he had a second rate intellect but a first rate temperament. I think if you look at our greatest presidents, Washington, Lincoln, both Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, they were people who had a first class temperament, and so they never considered themselves the smartest guy in the room, but they wanted the smartest people around them and they could take their advice, shape it on their own instincts and own views. I think the kind of people that a candidate wants advising him or her is critically important. The rest of it is, I think, you know, you can’t predict the problems that a president will face.”

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