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Post Donald Rumsfeld, 1932-2021
Created by John Eipper on 07/06/21 5:10 AM

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Donald Rumsfeld, 1932-2021 (David Duggan, USA, 07/06/21 5:10 am)

On this 4th of July weekend I thought I'd memorialize the recent death of Donald H. Rumsfeld, twice Secretary of Defense, and one of the more controversial ones at that.

Rummy as he was known (both affectionately and less so) died last week at the age of 89 from multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. He had a storybook career as Eagle Scout, wrestling team captain, Naval aviator, Congressman, cabinet officer, ambassador, corporate CEO, and ultimately elder statesman. Until I looked him up, though, I didn't realize how short he was (5'7"), and of him it can truly be stated that he punched above his weight.

Born in Chicago and raised on its North Shore, Rummy went to Princeton on an NROTC scholarship. Early pictures of him show a bull-neck topping a skinny tie. He placed at the Eastern [wrestling] Intercollegiates at 157 lbs. and was known for his speedy take-downs (funny, fellow Naval aviator John McCain, who described Rumsfeld as the worst Secretary of Defense ever, had a school record for a pin, though at a lower weight class). Even then, he was known for his toughness, doing 50 one-arm pushups with each arm to win a bet (I could do 20 back when). Though there are reports that Rummy didn't mix well with Princeton's swells, feeling that his public school and middle-class background didn't mesh well with the Eastern aristocracy, that is somewhat incongruous with his "bickering" to get into Cap and Gown, one of the former College of New Jersey's renowned "eating clubs" (really fraternities, but eating clubs sounds so much tonier). And there were rumors that on his 21st birthday, he "inherited" some 35 houses in Wilmette that his real-estate agent father had acquired during the Depression.

After his military service, Rumsfeld ran for an open congressional seat in his Illinois backyard in 1962 when Marguerite Church decided not to run again (having stepped into her late husband Ralph's seat in 1951; he had died on the floor of the House: this husband-wife tag team act was also mimicked by Margaret Chase Smith and Lurleen Wallace, but thankfully not Hillary Clinton). The district was reliably Republican and Rumsfeld won a bruising primary. Since he left Congress in 1969 to "decommission" the Office of Economic Opportunity under Nixon, the seat has been held by some lesser lights, including Phil Crane, John Porter and Mark Kirk (later elected senator to Barry Hussein's former seat), though for a time in the 1970s, after Boss Daley had Ab Mikva gerrymandered out of his Hyde Park seat, Mikva held it until President Peanut appointed him to a lifetime job on DC's federal appellate bench. Mikva resigned this position (why?) to serve as White House counsel for Slick Willy (just before the Monica Lewinsky affair, as far as I can tell), becoming one of the few to have served in all 3 branches of government.

Back to Rumsfeld. Jerry Ford, whom Rumsfeld had supported in the 1964 palace coup that put Ford in as Minority Leader, appointed Rummy as chief of staff (succeeded by Cheney) and then the nation's youngest Secretary of Defense in 1975, after the fall of Saigon. He led the transition to the all-volunteer army (which he had supported as a congressman), and presided over the dismantling of what had been a 3-million men-in-uniform force. He earned back-handed compliments from rival Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: "a special Washington phenomenon: the skilled full-time politician-bureaucrat in whom ambition, ability, and substance fuse seamlessly." After Peanut was sworn in, Rummy took over G.D. Searle, a North-Shore pharmaceutical company (first to develop The Pill), and after it had developed aspartame (NutraSweet) sold it to Monsanto for a pile. He had two other corporate jobs before Bush II tapped him to be the nation's oldest Secretary of Defense, reprising the Dick and Don act that went to Washington 25 years earlier.

As Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld served in two radically different military eras: the Cold War and its emphasis on massive retaliation while keeping the "brush fire" wars at a modest roar, and the unending War on Terror. Later known for his folksiness and bonhomie, as well as his near-mathematical obsession with "known unknowns" (used for the title of his memoir), Rummy will be vilified by some and praised by others. What cannot be doubted however was his devotion to country. On this 245th anniversary of the founding of the Republic which Rumsfeld served with all his mind, body and spirit, RIP.

JE comments:  Some presidential translations are in order:  Peanut would be Jimmy Carter, and Barry Hussein is...Obama.  Slick Willy and Bush II are self-explanatory.

Returning to Donald Rumsfeld, he will go down in history as one of the most memorable Secretaries of Defense.  (How many can identify even one of Trump's half-dozen SoDs--"Acting" or otherwise?)  Rummy's press conferences have generated several entries in Great Quotes of the Modern Era.  Besides the legendary "unknown unknowns," I am fond of his appraisal of Bin Laden:  "He is either alive and well, or alive and not too well, or not alive."

Rest well, Mr Secretary.  Let's remember you with some other nuggets:

Donald Rumsfeld Quotes (Author of Known and Unknown) (goodreads.com)


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  • A Rumsfeld Haiku (David Krieger, USA 07/07/21 3:56 AM)

    Rumsfeld was concerned

    with unknown unknowns, but still

    lied to start a war


    JE comments:  Colleagues, seventeen syllables can say so much.  Here's one unknown I don't know:  did Rumsfeld know he was lying about the Iraqi WMDs?  I have the impression, based on nothing other than a hunch, that he was a "good soldier" following orders.  De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, so I'll limit my question to one:  who on the Forum has read Rumsfeld's memoir Known and Unknown?  What does he say about the WMDs and the launching of the Iraq War?


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