Sec. Robert Gates on a president's willingness to listen

WASHINGTON - As the 2016 Republican and Democratic primaries wind down, Face the Nation host John Dickerson sat down with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to talk about the current election cycle. During the interview Dickerson asked the former Secretary what a newly elected president could say that would lead Gates to believe that, "This person has a good bead on this job."

Gates answered by using George C. Marshall and President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an example. Marshall, who had served as Roosevelt's Army Chief of Staff during World War II, was known for giving Roosevelt the hard truth.

"Roosevelt puts out some scheme and everybody in the room says it's a great idea." Gate explained, "And Marshall says, 'Mr. President, I think that's a terrible idea.'"

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Gen. George C. Marshall.

Library of Congress

Gates told Dickerson that throughout history Marshall has received credit for "speaking truth to power," but Roosevelt does not get his deserved credit for "understanding he [Roosevelt] needed somebody at his elbow who would tell him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear."

After serving numerous presidents on National Security matters, Gates explained that the best attribute a president could have is the ability to listen to the hard truth.

"I want to see evidence, whether -- whichever candidate you're talking about, that they're willing to hear what they need to hear, not what they want to hear."