Blame, Not Shame
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: February 5, 2011
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Donald Rumsfeld has only 815 pages — including a scintillating List of Acronyms — to explain why he was not responsible when Stuff Happened. His memoir, “Known and Unknown,” is like a living, breathing version of the man himself: very thorough, highly analytical and totally absent any credible self-criticism.
The 78-year-old Rumstud, as W. dubbed him, was both the youngest defense secretary in American history and the oldest. He traces a political career that spans a time when Lucy and Ricky were considered an “interracial relationship,” when Gerald Ford was “fresh blood” and when Richard Nixon still had a secret taping system. (He writes that Nixon once insisted he would bring peace to Vietnam, noting, “Richard Nixon doesn’t shoot blanks,” and dismissed his NATO staff as “a bunch of fairies.”)
Rummy met Dick Cheney when Cheney applied to be an intern in Rummy’s Congressional office, and they had many fine adventures, from figuring out how to keep the sun from shining on President Ford’s neck in the Oval Office to lowering American standards on torture.
The high school wrestling champ doesn’t wrestle with self-doubt. Rummy begins ladling out rationalizations in the preface. “The idea of known and unknown unknowns recognizes that the information those in positions of responsibility in government, as well as in other human endeavors, have at their disposal is almost always incomplete,” he writes. He quotes Clausewitz on the challenge of faulty intelligence and Socrates saying, “I neither know nor think that I know.”