MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. As President-elect Barack Obama rounds out his Cabinet, retired four-star Marine General James Jones is reportedly the odds-on favorite to serve as national security adviser. Jones is a career military officer. He spent 40 years in the Marines. He served as a platoon officer in Vietnam, and he also served as top commander for NATO. Lord Robertson was secretary-general for NATO from 1999 to 2003, and in his time there, he spent time with General Jones. And he joins us now to tell us more about the man who might serve as President-elect Barack Obama's national security adviser. Welcome to the program.
GEORGE ROBERTSON: Good evening, Michele.
NORRIS: Why has James Jones emerged as the top pick, and what does this say about Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda?
ROBERTSON: Well, if this is true and Jim Jones is to become national security adviser, it's very good news. And I think he's picked a really good man. You know, this is a very big man. He's big physically, and he's big in every other way, as well. And my experience of him was a man who made judgments after very careful thought. I think he's a pretty good pick, and I would congratulate the president-elect on getting somebody of that quality to be national security adviser.
NORRIS: You know, he will be sitting in a hot seat there in the NSA office in the White House. And you talk about judgments that he made. Is there a particular judgment, a particular case or scenario, that you want to share that says something about his leadership style and his judgment?
ROBERTSON: I can do that because I recall a meeting we had with Secretary Rumsfeld, Donald Rumsfeld, about American actions in Afghanistan. Secretary Rumsfeld was very opposed to what it was that I was promoting. I'm a fairly pugilistic guy and so, of course, is Donald Rumsfeld. And we sort of came to an impasse. But overnight, General Jones thought it through, spoke to Secretary Rumsfeld, and the following morning, Secretary Rumsfeld basically presented it as his own idea. Now that's clever, not just to get your own way, but to make sure that the other guy thought that it was his idea in the first place.
NORRIS: General Jones has been described as an internationalist. I wonder what that means, particularly when you're talking about Iran or the Middle East.
ROBERTSON: Well, when General Jones came, he spoke fluent French, which is the second language of NATO. He had a grasp of international affairs and a knowledge of the things that he was speaking about. He wasn't a stereotypical four-star general. So, you know, I've been in the national security adviser's office under Bill Clinton with Sandy Berger and then with Condoleezza Rice and then Steve Hadley, and Jim Jones will fit well into that and will bring a unique insight and knowledge to that office, if he's confirmed there.
NORRIS: You mentioned that he's a big man. He's six foot four. He's 64 years old. He spent part of his childhood in Paris. Is there anything else that you know about him that you can share with us, in particular how he spent his time after he retired from the Marine Corps?
ROBERTSON: I have to say, when Secretary Rumsfeld told me he was going to be appointed as supreme allied commander, I said, wait a minute, this is very unfair. I'm five foot nine, this guy is six foot four, and with a Marine hat on, that takes him almost up to seven foot. I said, I like small generals, like Wesley Clark. Anyway, it was a joke. And Jim Jones turned out to be a rounded man, big conversationalist, and I think ideally suited for the Obama White House.
NORRIS: Lord Robertson was secretary-general of NATO from 1999 to 2003. He was speaking with us about Marine General James Jones. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.
ROBERTSON: It was a pleasure.
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