Went to the big BENS gala last night (Business Executives for National Security) in downtown Washington, along with some Microsoft colleagues – the company was a sponsor – and several guests who fit right in with the rest of the crowd, military brass and IC muckety-mucks. I first met BENS founder Stanley Weiss back in the late 1980s when he came to Silicon Valley to recruit support for the new group, “a nonpartisan business organization aiming to cut through ideological debates on national security issues.”
The evening’s billed highlight was the awarding of the annual BENS Eisenhower Award to Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, who gave just a phenomenal speech (see Reuters and AP coverage today, and the full text here). I blogged a couple of days ago about his speech to the Heritage Foundation, which I read the text of, but seeing Gates deliver this speech really impressed me, to be honest. He comes across as sincerely dedicated to fixing some of the fundamental problems of DoD and the intelligence community (his career after all was at CIA and he is obviously a thoughtful critic of the DNI structure and “reforms”). I sat there wondering whether Gates would be willing to continue at the Pentagon in the next Administration (odds are much higher of that with a McCain victory, obviously, and infinitesimal otherwise).
Brent Scowcroft introduced Gates with a warm and witty tribute, and it was nice to see him in person. He told several jokes making fun of the Beltway culture, getting big laughs. Gates continued in kind at the beginning of his remarks, before he got serious – keep reading for one of Gates’s best jokes:
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