Donald Rumsfeld Outlines Rumsfeld’s Rules
HH: Broadcasting today with a special guest in studio with me, former Secretary of the Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is with me. His new book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, Leadership Lessons In Business, Politics, War And Life out in bookstores now. He’s going to be down at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda tonight at 7pm. Mr. Secretary, Page 134, “First reports are often wrong.” As we look at the TV monitor in the studio, the devastation in Oklahoma, I really can’t report on it, because we really don’t even know if anyone is dead, yet, even though the devastation’s extraordinary.
DR: It is. The television images are just shocking that it’s that powerful.
HH: In terms of, though, that piece of wisdom you gave in Rumsfeld’s Rules, first reports are often wrong, don’t react quickly, wait and see. I’m going to be on Hannity tonight talking about Benghazi and where the President was. Do you think he was waiting and watching the night of Benghazi?
DR: It certainly doesn’t seem that he paid a lot of attention to it. The reports are that he didn’t call the secretary of Defense or talk to people. And within a matter of hours, he left for Las Vegas for a campaign event. So I don’t, I certainly got the impression that he did not pay the kind of attention to it that one would think a leader would.
HH: Now this is a what if, and it’s Monday morning quarterbacking, but you served two tours as secretary of Defense. Had an embassy been attacked, or a consulate been attacked in the same way that this one was attacked, are you surprised at the lack of response from abroad that the Aviano jets did not scramble, that Special Forces did not deploy?
DR: I am. If you know that it’s the anniversary of September 11th, and that that is a time of danger, if you know that there are a lot of people milling around in Libya with a lot of weapons, if you know that the threats were so serious that the British consulate decided to evacuate because they weren’t able to protect their people, and if you know that the people in your facility in Benghazi requested additional security and were denied it, one would think that you would be having the capabilities that the United States military has arranged and arrayed in a way that they could be helpful. And we may, the hearings are going forward. I know I don’t know, but I do want to see the hearings go forward, because I think we’ll determine precisely what kinds of capabilities were in Tripoli, and I’m told there was a capable element there that had its own airlift not far away. And I’m also told that there was an element that came from Stuttgart down to Italy, and happened to be there. The element in Tripoli was there for a totally different reason, I’m told. It wasn’t there for protection. But it had capabilities that might have been used. So as I say, I just don’t know, and I think the hearings ought to clarify all of that. Why didn’t they provide the right kind of security? If not, why didn’t they pull the people out? What kinds of military assets were available given the known threat of al Qaeda-related terrorists in the vicinity, well-armed, as it turned out?
HH: Now over the weekend, I talked with Rorke Denver. Rorke is a Navy SEAL who retired recently, wrote a book called Damn Few. He starred in the movie Act Of Valor. And in the book, Damn Few, wholly unrelated to this, he tells the story of calling in an F-18 Super Hornet with no ordinance, it was out of ordinance, to do a flyover of al Qaeda in Iraq for the purposes of disbursing them, and it worked. Your successor at the Pentagon, Secretary Gates, said that’s too easy a conclusion to reach on, I believe, Face The Nation two weeks ago, that the Aviano jets ought to have been sent because shoulder-fired anti-air missiles had fallen into the hands of the Libyan resistance. What do you make of this idea that they could have at least had a flyover, and of Secretary Gates’ objection that perhaps one of the reasons a flyover didn’t happen is because of shoulder-fired missiles?
DR: I think former Secretary Gates was agreeing with former Secretary Panetta’s comment. And I didn’t hear either of them. I haven’t read them. And I don’t know the context. And as I say, I, rather than second-guessing, I’d kind of want to wait to see what the hearings produce.
HH: But legitimate inquiry as the assets and what they were, and why they…
HH: Now on Page 133 of Rumsfeld’s Rules, and by the way, magnificent book, America. You’re going to, no wonder it’s a bestseller already, because it’s imminently readable, and it’s a template for everything that’s happening right now. You write, “It is difficulties that show what men are.” Now very few people can answer this in the way that you can. On the night of Benghazi, Mr. Hicks testified he called Secretary of State Clinton at 2:00 in the morning, 8pm Washington time, briefed her on the situation. He was under attack, they had axe-wielding people destroying the secret data in Tripoli. They were preparing to evacuate in Tripoli to the CIA annex. The ambassador was missing. There had been an attack. Secretary of State Clinton signs off on the evacuation plan and hangs up. She never calls back. Is that, to you, striking that she never, after the ambassador’s death was confirmed, never got back in touch with number two, with whom she’d already been in touch?
DR: Well, it is. I think there are a number of things that are surprising. And until we have the hearings, and until we find ground truth, but the seeming inattentiveness by the senior people in the administration, I mean, the President not calling the secretary of Defense, the President leaving within a matter of a day or so for Las Vegas for a campaign event, it, not calling people into the Oval Office and sitting them down and saying well, let’s find out really what’s going on, what’s happening, the whole thing is surprising. The only thing where the President has seemed to have been directly involved, and acting as a leader, was the killing of bin Laden, which was a success. But a leader has to be dealing with the problems as well as the successes.
HH: There are, I think it was a search for deniability, that the reason we don’t find any footprints is that everyone knew this was a screw-up before the election, and no one wanted to be close to it. In your experience with President Bush, there was good news and there was bad news. There were terrible days, there were very good days. Did he ever change his pattern of accountability or accessibility to you, depending on the news cycle?
DR: Absolutely not. I never saw, certainly that wasn’t the case with President Ford. I never saw that with President Reagan, and certainly not with President George W. Bush. He was engaged, he was interested, he asked tough questions, he listened well. And the behavior was surprising for me.
HH: Let me play for you Dan Pfeiffer, the White House press spokesman sent out yesterday talking on Fox News Channel with Chris Wallace, cut number one:
CW: Do you not know whether he was in the Situation Room?
DP: I don’t remember what room the President was in on that night, and that’s a largely irrelevant fact.
CW: Well, the point is…
HH: He says it’s a largely irrelevant fact where the President was. Is that correct?
DR: Well, that fits with what Mrs. Clinton in her testimony. She said something to the effect at this point, what does it matter, and I think that when there are uncomfortable truths, that being dismissive of those truths is a pattern.
HH: You also wrote in Rumsfeld’s Rules, I like this, not all negative press is unearned. If you’re getting it, see if there’s a reason.
DR: Well, that’s true. I mean, all of us make mistakes in life, and you say things we wish we hadn’t said, and you do get negative press. My wife’s rule with respect to the press is that you don’t ever want to become infatuated with them or resentful of them. They have their job, and you have yours.
HH: I was talking before the hour began about the most surprising thing in Rumsfeld’s Rules, is that you liked your interview with Jon Stewart. And I asked if you’d go on with Colbert, and you’re open to the latter. But explain to people why the former went better than you thought.
DR: Well, I was not a viewer of him, and yet I went on the program. And what is it called, the Daily Show?
HH: The Daily Show, yeah.
DR: He listened, and then asked questions off what somebody said. He clearly had done his homework, he was intelligent, he was interested. You know, he sprinkles his language with a lot of colorful words that have to be bleeped out, but he is, without question, an interesting person, and a serious person.
HH: Yeah, Colbert is very, very smart. It’s a comedy show, but it has a huge audience, and I think young people would enjoy reading Rumsfeld’s Rules. So I hope you do that. When you were secretary of Defense, did any journalists stand out for the kind of person that you would sit down and want to spend an hour with live to tape so that they couldn’t edit it?
DR: Well, sure. You know, Brian Lamb is a person who is serious, and read things, and asked questions off what he had read, and listens to answers. Charlie Rose is a person I’ve enjoyed being interviewed by, because again, he reads things, he thinks, he asks questions, and is engaged. Some people just simply work off cue cards.
DR: And someone prepares them, and no matter what you say, the interviewer then says what the next question is.
DR: And that’s not as much fun for me, and I suspect not as much fun for the audience.
HH: Not at all. I’ll be right back with former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
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HH: Mr. Secretary, the Rumsfeld Rule, first of all, tell people the genesis of the book. I’ve talked to you about it before, but Rumsfeld’s Rule did not appear out of nowhere. It’s been 35 years in the making?
DR: Indeed. In fact, it’s been 60 years in the making, or more. My mother was a schoolteacher. I asked her the meaning of a word, and she’d say write it down, look it up. And I started writing down words, and I carried 3×5 cards, and I still do to this day. And I started writing down thoughts that I thought were interesting. And then one day, I mentioned of them when I was chairing the transition for Gerald Ford to the presidency in 1974, I guess, and he said well, where did that come from? And I said well, I was working with some smart person, and he said it, and I wrote it down. He said, well, let me see all of those. So I had them typed up, and he labeled them Rumsfeld’s Rules, and said let’s send them around to the senior staff, because he said they’re useful. And I think they are useful for people in government, or in business, or in starting out, out of school.
HH: Now before the book came out, but you said it in your memoir, and I had heard you say it before, I think my favorite Rumsfeld rule is A’s pick A’s, and B’s pick C’s. And I’ve said that in many, many places. I’ve said it in regards to President Obama’s administration with regards to various other political people. Explain to people what you mean by A’s pick A’s, and B’s pick C’s.
DR: Well, for whatever reason, A’s understand what quality is, and they seek it out, and they attract them. And B’s, sometimes, really are a little worried about having an A around, because they might outshine them. So B’s tend to hire B’s or C’s. And the difference is enormous. One time, I had a daughter come to me and say gee, what do you think I ought to do, or what business or what industry, or what state, or what company? And I said it doesn’t matter. Go to work with someone who is brilliant, and you’ll find that he sparkles, he or she, and that the people around them will sparkle. And she said well, like how, and I said well, Herman Kahn or Bill Buckley. Just find somebody in a field you’re interested in who is really smart. And what do you do for them, she said? And I said it doesn’t matter what you do for them. Be around them. Meet the people they are around, because A’s attract A’s.
HH: Yeah, you know, you just mentioned a name, Herman Kahn, which our audience will not recognize. But when I went to work as a young man for Richard Nixon, everything Herman Kahn wrote was hanging around San Clemente, because he was the first great futurist. Tell people about Herman Kahn.
DR: Well, he became a dear friend. When I was in Congress in the 1960s, we used to go to conferences together. And we’ve traveled to Japan together and what have you, and he was the person who was dealing very knowledgeably, he was a futurist, I guess. He wrote back in, oh, the 1960s, he wrote The Year 2000, which then was decades ahead.
DR: And it was a fascinating thing. He founded the Hudson Institute. He was very knowledgeable about thermonuclear war and the risks and the dangers, and the concepts of deterrence.
HH: You wrote in Rumsfeld’s Rules about Nixon that he surrounded himself, you’d walk in and you’d find Moynihan, of course, you were working for him, Schultz is working for him. He pulls in everybody. He also pulled in a deputy director of the CIA, General, he can speak seven languages, and now I’m blanking on his name.
DR: Vernon Walters.
HH: Vernon Walters.
DR: Vernon Dick Walters.
HH: He used to show up in San Clemente, and this guy was smart on stilts. And I don’t know that we do that much anymore in the government, do we? Do they just import people that are just smart on stilts?
DR: Well, some people do, and some people don’t. Richard Nixon attracted some of the brightest minds in the country. And he pulled this group together. Some were Democrats, some were Republicans, some were old, some were young. Dr. Arthur Burns, Herb Stein, there were any number of people that I met through him, and Dick Walters, Vernon Dick Walters was one of them. One day, I was going to go to Europe to talk about the drug problem in Europe and the United States, and President Nixon said to me, look, I’m interested in you going to Romania and talking to the prime minister, and telling him that I am interested in meeting with the Chinese. And you should tell them the contact point is a man named Vernon Dick Walters, who is our military attaché in Paris. And so I got an early clue that he was kind of interested in opening…
HH: And Walters did do the early back and forth.
DR: Yeah, yeah.
HH: He did. I remember that. He’s in San Clemente one day, and I’m a young kid. I’m 22 years old, said something I’ll never forget. He said somewhere in a cave in Bavaria, the Germans are building a death ray. And so I always thought he was a pretty sophisticated character. All right, now to generals, you picked a lot of generals as secretary of Defense both times. And I asked former President Bush this as well in a post-presidency interview in Dallas. Like Lincoln, swing and a miss on a few of these generals. What is it that you need in a general that you learned after the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, that you’d want your successors in interest to know?
DR: Oh, my goodness. You know, picking people is one of the hardest, one of the most important things anyone does, but also one of the more difficult. People get in the queue in the military, and they’re there, and the choices become narrow as it gets towards the top. And you arrive in that job as secretary of Defense, or president of the United States, and the generals are there, and they’re there for a period, and you don’t know them. And you don’t know how good they are. And they are not tested. Nobody had been tested in the first wars of the 21st Century, the first wars of the information age. Very different, and in World War II, I mean, they censored everything, and then we’d used to, what you learned about the war came in a little clip before the movie in a movie theater, Pathe News and that type of thing. Today, my goodness, the Sony videocams and Skyping and phone calls, and the instantaneous communication by anybody, anywhere, that is a totally different environment for a war. And it takes time for people to adjust. It will adjust, as a democracy will adjust, but the first wars of the 21st Century challenged our military people, and the American people as well. How do you take this aboard? How do you avoid having your carburetor flooded, so to speak? How do you maintain your inner gyroscope when you’re hearing this flood of information? And of course, as they say, a lie travels around the world twenty times before the truth gets its boots on.
HH: Whereas you say truth leaves on horseback, and comes back on foot.
HH: So of those generals that you had, you had some extraordinary generals, and I want to make sure I get the list correct of those who have recently left. Generals McChrystal, Petraeus, Mattis and Allen have all left the American military in the last two years, an unprecedented loss of talent. And we’re going to run into a break. Are you surprised that all four of those have left in such a short period of time?
DR: Well, no. I guess not. I mean, they keep moving along, and they keep opening up spots for the ones coming behind. I mean, General Mattis, I met with the other day. He’s a true warrior. No question about it. And General McChrystal was polished and developed what he was doing for our country to a fine, fine art.
HH: More on the generals when we return with Secretary of Defense, former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. His book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, is linked at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: Mr. Secretary, during the break, I was asking you about post-Katrina, and you gave me some statistics about how the National Guard and the Army responded, which I think people are probably not very familiar with. In your book, it says that preparation makes for performance. I don’t have all the alliteration there, but it’s working again.
DR: Yes. There’s no question but that the capability that exists in our country to deal with a catastrophic disaster, a major, major disaster, whether it’s a natural disaster or whether it’s a terrorist attack, the capability really resides in responsibility first with local, state and local officials. And they get overwhelmed almost immediately in a major, major event. Second, it falls to FEMA and the Homeland Security Department. And they don’t have a lot of capability. What they have is the ability to contract and get help. But the contractors are overwhelmed. So if you have a major disaster, electricity is out. And you can’t even pump gas. Nobody can get anywhere, because the electricity is out. The only place you can get that kind of capability, communications packages, generators, all the things, airlifts, all the things you need, is with the National Guard and the active forces. And thanks to General Blum and Paul McHale, who was the assistant secretary of Defense for civil defense, they got 50,000 National Guard people into Katrina, and into Mississippi and Louisiana, and I think it was a total of 20,000 active forces, faster than ever in history. They did a superb job. And one of the leaders was General Honore, who happened to be a Cajun, and knew the folks, and knew the territory, and did a wonderful job.
HH: As we watch these pictures, what’s going on in the Pentagon right now? Is there, is that assistant secretary staffing up as we speak, as Oklahoma’s devastation comes clearer?
DR: Oh, I don’t doubt it for a minute. They have to be. That office didn’t exist, and after 9/11, we got the Congress to agree to it, and it still exists today.
HH: Okay, we’ll come back to that. I want to go back to the generals for a moment. When you went to break, you were saying General Mattis is a warrior, and rare for someone like that to come along. General Petraeus, obviously extraordinarily talented individual. General Allen was a war fighter, and General McChrystal was a war fighter. As they leave, do you see the generation coming up behind them, I mean, you had to go outside of the Army to find an Army chief of staff. You had to go get a retiree, right?
DR: Well, that was for a different reason. I had to get a Special Forces retiree, someone who would come in…
HH: General Schoomaker.
DR: Pete Schoomaker, yeah.
DR: I needed someone who would come in and deal with the Army with authority. And he was the man. He moved from divisions to brigade combat teams. He did things in the Army that the Army needed done. But it took a strong man who wasn’t looking for any promotions, and who had a lot of respect for Special Operations, and understood asymmetric warfare.
HH: One of the things you wrote about in Rumsfeld’s Rules, I want to quote this exactly correct, “Never assume the other guy will never do something you would never do.” As we look at Syria right now, with chemical weapons running all over the place, and Hezbollah reinforcing Assad’s troops, and the Sunnis coming in, when you start not assuming, what do you start thinking might be the things we shouldn’t be assuming?
DR: Well, I used to deal with Assad’s father, and the son, who’s in there, Mrs. Clinton, I think, described as a reformer at some point. Well, he’s not a reformer. He’s a tough apple, and he’s got tough people around him. And I think Winston Churchill said, a dictator rides the tiger to and fro, and he’s afraid to get off. He’ll get killed. And I think that’s what a dictator does, and that’s what he is, is a vicious dictator. And his goal every morning when he gets up is to perpetuate himself in office. Our problem is, who do we help? There are going to be people across the spectrum. The best organized, toughest will be the Muslim Brotherhood, the most extreme, the most brutal, and the most determined, clearly the best organized. And then there’ll be a lot of good folks on the other side across the spectrum, all opposing Assad. But you know, if three people come down the elevator at night, and one wants to go to the movies, and the other two don’t know what they want to do, they go to the movies. And the Muslim Brotherhood knows what it wants to do. And I worry about if you provide assistance, what reasonable assurance do you have that you’ll actually be doing good, that you’ll make something better rather than worse?
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HH: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, you’re one of the few people who have actually had the good fortune to live in Warren, Ohio, for a time, and your daughter was born in Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Ohio. You worked for Dave Dennison. It’s always good to work for someone in Congress when you’re young, but I want to talk to you about a lesson in Rumsfeld’s Rules. You’re walking along the path in California, and a bunch of people are yelling at the various famous people. Relay the story, because I’m going to tell that story many, many times.
DR: Well, it tells you how fleeting fame can be. I was there at a big meeting that President Nixon had, and he had the secretary of the Interior, and the secretary of this, and the secretary of that, and there were a lot of people outside. We finished lunch, we were walking down a path going to a ship for a meeting, and I was walking along at the very end. I was a very junior cabinet officer at the time. And I was walking along with a tall, lanky man, and people were there up front when they’d say there’s the President, there’s the President. And then someone would say there’s the Vice President. Someone said well, there’s the secretary of the Interior. And then I heard someone say there’s Rumsfeld. And I thought to myself, isn’t that amazing? I’m walking with Charles Lindbergh, at one moment, the most famous man in the world, who flew the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean, the first man in history to do that. No one had the vaguest idea who he was. And I thought to myself, as a former Navy pilot, I was thrilled to be with Charles Lindbergh and to have a chance to talk to him and visit with him, very modest, tall, easygoing person. And it just struck me that that’s not bad that fame is fleeting.
HH: It’s a good lesson to get very early on. I mentioned earlier when I was young and working with former President Nixon in San Clemente, a fellow named Kenny O’Donnell came to see him, who was big in the Kennedy years.
HH: And as I was leaving, the Secretary said that’s Kenny O’Donnell. He used to be somebody. And I thought to myself, isn’t that everybody’s epitaph, right? He used to be somebody. Second story I want people to hear, because it illustrates the first presidential candidate I worked for was Jerry Ford. I ran the Ford campaign in Massachusetts for young people in 1976, drove all over the state in the attempt to turn Massachusetts Republican. And you tell a story about former President Ford in Japan, which I think is truly illuminating of his character and funny.
DR: Well you know, when you’re chief of staff of the White House, you’re pretty much responsible for, you get blamed for everything. And I was his chief of staff traveling with him when he was the first president, sitting president to ever visit Japan. He went to get dressed to go out for the big, formal meeting, the first meeting with the emperor of Japan, Hirohito. And I was in his dressing room. He was getting his clothes on, and he pulled on his pants, and the pants were about four inches shorter than they’re supposed to be.
HH: And it’s a very elaborate suit, right?
DR: Oh, my goodness. It’s one of those tails and special things. You just don’t put on a different pair of pants. This is something his tailor had worked on and gotten them all prepared, and they found out precisely what protocol was. And he looked down at his pants, smiled at me, and said well, Rummy, here we go. There’s nothing you could do. He didn’t blame anybody. He was such a wonderful man. So just a decent human being.
HH: Now you were talking earlier, you might write something about him.
DR: I am thinking about it hard, and I have a lot of documents from our meetings over the years when we were, when he was a new president, the only one who’d never been elected president or vice president, who succeeded a president who resigned. And he was such a fine person and did so much to refill the reservoir of trust in the country, that it struck me it might be a good thing to do.
HH: One of Rumsfeld’s Rules is be careful that you’re limiting your own information. He got along well with Kissinger, so he talked to Kissinger. He didn’t like Schlesinger, the secretary of Defense he inherited from Nixon, so he didn’t talk to Schlesinger. Why didn’t he like Schlesinger, who’s always struck me as a smart guy?
DR: One of the things I’ve come to understand is he, Gerald Ford was very close to members of Congress. They were his friends, Democrat and Republican alike. And George Mahon from Texas was the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Jerry Ford was the ranking member. And Schlesinger, I think, was highly critical of George Mahon, Congressman, and of other Congressmen. And I think that Gerald Ford didn’t like it, and was critical of him for that reason. And you know, sometimes, personalities just don’t fit. And that’s okay.
HH: Another interesting story, Rocky, and from your memoir, you didn’t get along well with Rockefeller. But from your memoir, that picture is different from Rumsfeld’s Rules. He taught you the lesson that the more you give, the more you get back from people, and he taught you that in a motorcade.
DR: Yeah, politically, we differed in our philosophies, but he really, in a motorcade, showed me the truth that people respond in direct proportion to the extent that you reach out to them. And he proved it. He waved to some people a little bit, and they waved back a little bit. Then he waved a lot more, and they waved back a lot more. And then he stood up with a big smile, waved his arms like this, back and forth, and everyone along the side started doing the same thing. And he sat down, and said Don, there’s a lesson there. People respond in direct proportion to the extent you reach out to them, and it was a good lesson.
HH: Another Rumsfeld Rule, be seen. Walk around. How would you do that in the Pentagon? The Pentagon is a mess. When I was in the government and I was on the civilian side, I would not go there without a guide. You couldn’t find a thing if you were a Justice Department or an OPM’er. How did you manage by wandering around in the Pentagon?
DR: Well, it wasn’t a mess, with all respect.
HH: (laughing) Complicated.
DR: Yes, complicated. That’s a better word. Well, the first cabinet meeting, President Bush said to the cabinet, he said now look, you all ought to go over to your departments, and you ought to be seen. Walk down the corridors. Walk down the halls. Let people see you. I said to him afterwards, Mr. President, there are 17 miles of corridors in the Pentagon. I’d have to get the whole cabinet over there to walk those halls. But it’s understandable. It’s got five sides. It’s got different tiers and wings.
HH: Can you fire people in the Pentagon when you need to fire them?
DR: You can move them away from where they are. Getting rid of a civilian employee is almost impossible in the Pentagon.
HH: One of the things, 30 seconds to the break, Mr. Secretary, they say about the sequester is that it’s hitting the wrong places in the Pentagon, that it’s not hitting the civilian side, it’s hitting the military preparedness. Do you agree with that?
DR: I do. It’s mindless. But I think you could probably not replace one out of every ten civilian employees, given the difficulty of the personnel system. It’s almost impossible to hire people, to fire people, to move them around, to manage them. As a result, everyone in the Pentagon uses military people, brings them in because they can send them away when the job’s done. Same thing with contractors.
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HH: Mr. Secretary, Rumsfeld’s Rules, one more I want to cover with you. Don’t take the job unless you feel free to tell the President what you think with the bark off. Does this president have those sorts of people around him, do you think?
DR: The only one I’ve heard of is Valerie Jarrett, who is that close. But I was that close to Gerald Ford, and the problem is, people who dealt with the President would walk in, say to me, gosh, I’ve got to see the President. He’s doing something wrong and I want to tell him. And then they’d get into the Oval Office and get intimidated, and they’d kind of say oh, my, what a wonderful job you’re doing, and then they’d walk out and say well, I’m glad I got that off my chest.
HH: That’s a funny story.
HH: You heard that a few times.
DR: But it’s true.
DR: And if you’re the chief of staff to the president, or the top aide to a businessman, or a leader somewhere, you have proximity, and you know when you can say something, and when the best time to give bad news is. And you have that obligation, and every leader needs someone who will do that, to bring the bad news and tell him the truth with the bark off.
HH: Which job did you enjoy more – secretary of Defense or chief of staff to the president?
DR: Ambassador to NATO.
HH: (laughing) All right, last question, I want a little dose of famous Rumsfeld candor. The Republicans are looking at Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and John Kasich, Chris Christie, Rand Paul. A’s pick A’s, B’s pick C’s. Who’s Rummy pick?
DR: It’s too early. You want to watch these folks run around the path a little bit. It’s a tough job, and it’s important that those people be tested and measured, that we watch how they handle problems, how they deal with surprise or a crisis, how they take criticism, how can they explain what it is we’re all about. I was not impressed with the discussion of capitalism in the last presidential campaign by anybody.
HH: And your book ends with a discussion of capitalism.
DR: Well, at the last minute, I decided to write that chapter on capitalism, because I think it’s so important.
HH: Do you know Arthur Brooks at the American Enterprise Institute?
DR: I know who he is.
HH: He’ll love this chapter. In terms of managing a crisis, Chris Christie got hit with the storm, even as we watch Oklahoma now, in the middle of the campaign, welcomed the President. I think he did what every governor would do. Did you think he overdid it at the time? Or did he do what you would have done?
DR: Oh, I think he handled that properly. I think criticism of that is misplaced.
HH: What about Rubio and his embrace of immigration reform? The Senator is working it pretty hard.
DR: I’m not knowledgeable enough to know. I think that’s a complicated issue, and I haven’t seen what their proposal is.
HH: Do you prefer that a president come from a governor? You’ve worked for both a legislator, Jerry Ford, who became the president, and you’ve worked for a governor, George Bush, who became a president. And you worked for Nixon, who was kind of everything and became a president. So what’s the best prep?
DR: Well, I think there’s no question but that being a legislator was quite different from being an executive. And being an executive is helpful. On the other hand, being knowledgeable about Washington and foreign policy and Defense issues is also helpful. It depends partly on the times that a person’s serving. And it also depends on that person.
HH: Then we’ll get you back later in the cycle to ask you that question again. Mr. Secretary, always a pleasure. Donald Rumsfeld’s new book is Rumsfeld’s Rules.
End of interview.