Few can doubt the vigor of Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary who cant be made to resign. (The 74-year-old eschews a chair at his desk, for instance, preferring to stand for over eight hours a day at a raised drafting table.) Not even an unprecedented onslaught against Rummy by retired Army and Marine generals earlier this year was enough to dent their target visibly. Bob Woodward might have destroyed his reputation in State of Denial, but it takes more than a public shaming to evict Rummy from the E-Ring.
Beneath the vigorous exterior, however, dwells a delicate soul too often wounded by the mainstream press. Thats why these days, Rummy prefers to grant access, plenty of it, to journalists more to his liking: right-wing talk-radio hosts. While Rummys efforts are in part strategic (to rally support for the war in Iraq), theyre also personal. The truth is that even the most resolutely vigorous ego requires a gentle, periodic stroking, and right-wing radio touches Rummy in just the right places. What follows are samples of how to pleasure a secretary of defense:
HUMPHRIES: Welland [you] gave a speech a couple of days ago and got some heat over it. And I got to tell you
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good speech. (Laughs.)
HUMPHRIES: Historical. Historical.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I went back and reread that a couple of times, and I liked every word. (Laughs.)
HUMPHRIES: Me, too. I cannot understand why and Im guessing you cant understand, eitherbut why anybody would have a problem with this. I mean, we have appeasers in our country, and
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Ive tried to get people to take that speech and show me which sentence they didnt agree with.
HUMPHRIES: Oneone sentence, please.
BENNETT: Coming to my book party, you were the star of the party; you got the whole spotlight. It went off me, it was on you. All of that was fine, and then, I turn and look, and you are signing my book. I mean, what was going on there?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, Ive never written a book, Bill, so I why shouldnt I sign your book? (Laughs.)
BENNETT: (Laughs.) Well, it was a thrill for everybody who got one. They wanted your signature, not mine.
WILBUR: Now, as someone who has supported the effort from the very beginning, the liberation of Iraq, and still support our president as to what were doing there, it seems to me that a lot of the American people are used to instant solutions
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
WILBUR: and things being solved in 23 minutes on a TV soap operaand whether or not a free people here has the patience to see this through, given all the complications and how difficult it is.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, youve called it
WILBUR: Well, President Lincoln had to put up with the peace movement, draft riots, people urging the war couldnt be won, wanting to surrender. He persevered and he kept the country together. I hope that spirit of perseverance is here in America today.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Right.
WILBUR: Because think what would have happened back then; if it had prevailed in 1864, we would not have had one country.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Exactly.
WILBUR: All right. Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for taking the time with us today and thank you for all you do for our country. And all we have to do is win, and I think we will.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, Kirby.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Theres no way we can lose this battle with the terrorists in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The only place you could lose it, if you lost your will here in Washington, D.C.
CROWLEY: Amen to that. Amen to that. And you and I both worked for President Nixon and we understand the damage that that did to our side during the war in Vietnam … I know you take a lot of hits.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
CROWLEY: I know thatand keep good humor about it, too.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
HEWITT: A few minutes ago, Mr. SecretaryI was watching your press conferenceyou blasted the medias coverage of the General Hayden nomination saying, quote, The quality of the debate is pedestrian.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Did I say that?
HEWITT: Yes, you did. I loved it. I applauded, actually.
KILMEADE: We understand that 3,500 Army soldiers will not be going to Iraq, will be staying in Germany. Some say this is a good signthat things are stabilizing. What does the Secretary of Defense say?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think it would be premature to come to that conclusion I think that people are taking one tulip and deciding its spring.
NAPOLITANO: Mr. Secretary [Laughter]. Nicely put. One tulip and deciding its spring.
GALLAGHER: Mr. Secretary, I have been pained. It has been painful on a very personal and professional level to see some of these retired generals criticize you and your efforts. What is your response to some of the things that have been said about you? And of course, the mainstream media has taken it and run with it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
GALLAGHER: It has to be awfully difficult for you to hear some of those potshots that have been leveled your way by some of these retired generals.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know there have always been criticisms made in every war.
HUMPHRIES: I just saw you on TV a minute ago and Ive got to ask you, why do you put up with it? The stupid questions. Youve got nothing to prove. Youve got these generals, the critics; its got to be driving you crazy.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: ListenIve been there before and I understand it. Change is hard for people, but by golly, Im not going to sit here and not change this place, because it needs change.
HUMPHRIES: You keep hearing from these guys, Rumsfelds a tough guy. You know what? Dang it, were at war. I want a tough guy in that job.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Thats nice, thank you.
Secretary Rumsfeld interviewed on the Bill Cunningham Show, 700 WLW, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 17, 2006
CUNNINGHAM: I want you to stay there, Donald, because I think youre the best, youre a hard-nosed guy, you know where the bodies are buried in Washington, DC, you know how the department works. Normal Americans who live in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana want you to stay there, and dont listen to the clowns at The Washington Post and CNN. You know what Im saying?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter]. Oh, youre amazing.
DAVIS: Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld. Continued success, good health to you, sir, God bless you. Poll numbers are what they are, but doggone it, Ill tell you it is those of us who have kept our eye on the ball, have patience, a sense of history, and a little bit of spine and guts to us are going to prevail, and I say that not just about talk-show guys or even defense secretaries, but people in our uniform doing the noble work of this war. God bless them and you for supporting them. I really appreciate it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well said, Mark Davis.