Theodore Roosevelt’s words on Presidents and the critical importance of avoiding ‘yes men’ and getting unvarnished counsel and critique:
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants.
He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.
Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
As President Obama thinks through the many challenges charging him and the country, all seemingly at the same time — but with a particular focus on Afghanistan, it’s important for Obama and his team to keep as the foundation of discussion the honest dynamic Roosevelt frames.
I think about this quote from Teddy Roosevelt whenever I sit in the White House/Roosevelt Room discussing with various other policy intellectuals and Members of the President’s National Security Council team the fast currents of a shifting world and the power bets America needs to make.
— Steve Clemons