On rare occasions one comes a person whose instinct in a specialized field (such as law, medicine or investments) is almost always right.

I saw this is law, where an older lawyer I knew would immediately point me to the right answer, even before the research had been done. I imagine this is also true of a doctor who at any early stage usually seems to have a feel for the right diagnosis (House?). Or an investor who can tell immediately that something sounds good, or bad.

But I also once knew a company general counsel whose instincts about legal questions was virtually always wrong. After privately making fun of the fellow for some time, it occurred to me this was equally valuable. All I had to do was ask his opinion and I could feel reasonably comfortable going the other way.

I see that Secretary Gates has much the same approach. In his new book he says (quite amazingly, so he must feel strongly about it) that Joe Biden has been wrong on virtually every military and national security issue for forty years. And when asked in a television interview broadcast today whether he went too far, Gates recounted the following anecdote:

"Mr. Gates said on one occasion, when driving back to the Pentagon, Adm. Michael Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that for once Mr. Gates and Mr. Biden had agreed on something in a meeting. Yeah, I said, that is why I am rethinking my position.”


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