Wow! That was Mika Brzezinski's repeated reaction to Robert Gates' amazingly frank take on the presidential field. Appearing on today's Morning Joe, the former Defense Secretary shot down all contenders mentioned, dumped on two who have not yet entered the race, and retroactively knocked President Obama for always thinking he was the smartest guy in the room.
Here was Gates' rap on various candidates: Ted Cruz: people proposing carpet bombing "don't know what they're talking about." Joe Biden: "I don't think so." Donald Trump: "if you have never beeen in government, your ability to make the government work is going to be significantly reduced." John Kerry: "I don't think so." Anyone in the field possessing the qualities he'd like to see in a president? "I don't see any."
Too bad Gates wasn't asked for his take on Hillary Clinton. If he had replied with the same "I don't think so" with which he dismissed Biden and Kerry, that would have been a real bombshell!
Afterwards, the Morning Joe crew was manifestly amazed by Gates' candor, with Mark Halperin saying he did a "spit take" on his Diet Coke.
Check back soon for the transcript. In the meantime, sit back and watch as a man freed from the constraints of high appointive office feels liberated to speak his mind!
MIKE BARNICLE: What goes through your mind when you hear specific candidates say we have to carpet bomb ISIS, I'll eliminate ISIS on practically day one of my presidency?
ROBERT GATES: Well, first of all, they don't know what they're talking about. Carpet bombing would be completely useless.
. . .
JOHN HEILEMANN: So if you had had the willingness to make tough decisions of President Obama, the courage of President George W. Bush and the unifying qualities of George Herbert Walker Bush [the best quality in each man that Gates had just described], if you could have all three of those things in the next president, you'd have a pretty good president, right?
GATES: I think you would.
HEILEMANN: So anybody out there that matches up to that bill?
GATES: I don't see any.
HEILEMANN: That's depressing.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh my God! That's horrible!
JOE SCARBOROUGH: President Obama has actually been criticized for always thinking he's the smartest guy in the room. You just said that one of the traits you look for [in a president] and I will tell you it was the first thing I told my chief of staff as soon as I got to congress: your job is to make me the dumbest guy in the room. I said that may seem like an easy job but I always need people smarter than me around me making my better every day. Did Barack Obama always think he was the smartest guy in the room?
GATES: You know, the president is quoted as having said at one point to his staff, I can do every one of your jobs better than you can.
JOE: Oh, my God!
MIKA: Say no more.
. . .
MIKA: Who would you like to see run if you could start all over again?
GATES: That's a very good question.
MIKA: I want to know the answer. Is it Joe Biden?
GATES: No, I don't think so. I will tell you this. I do think that politics is a profession. And I think that if you don't have any experience in how government works, if you have never been in government, your ability to make the government work is going to be significantly reduced. It's different than business. It's different than surgery. It's different than anything else.
. . .
MIKA: How about John Kerry?
GATES: I don't think so.
JOE: Mika, just stop, okay?
MIKA: But he's so honest. It's amazing. Wow!
. . .
JOE: We're sitting here marveling at the news that was just made in that interview: a 'no' to Joe Biden being ready for president --
MIKA: I disagree --
JOE: -- a 'no' for John Kerry being president. Critical of Donald Trump, of Ted Cruz's carpet-bombing strategy. And the big news, directly, he could have dodged it very easily, I expected him to,
when he said a real leader surrounds himself with smart people. Barack Obama, the critique of Barack Obama always thinking he's the smartest guy in the room and I can do all of your jobs better than any of you. That was an extraordinary interview.
MIKA: This must be quite a book, "A Passion for Leadership."
JOE: You were watching from the green room and were stunned.
MARK HALPERIN: I did a spit-take with my second Diet Coke of the day. Bob Gates is a great American and outspoken and, boy, was he outspoken just now.