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Lunch with SecDef Rumsfeld

I have to admit that when I received an invitation  to have lunch with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld while I was in town for CPAC,  I wasn’t sure what to expect.   As with most public figures I’d seen him from afar through both the lens and filter of the national media.  About 10 of us were invited in to meet and eat lunch with Sec. Rumsfeld and talk about his new book. 

It included a group of pretty heavy hitters in the conservative sphere, including Conn Carroll of the Heritage Foundation, John Noonan and Mary Katherine Ham of the Weekly Standard, Matt Lewis late of AOL and now with the Daily Caller, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, John Hinderaker Rumsfeld2 of Powerline, Philip Klein of the American Spectator … and me (and yes, I was asking myself wtf am I doing here? The answer is a friend who managed to get me a seat at the table as a favor).

Sec. Rumsfeld arrived and immediately welcomed us and thanked us for joining him.  He was gracious, engaging, humorous and both forthright and informative.  The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial.   It was an hour or so that seemed to fly by.  Frankly I could have stayed there all day talking to the man – it was that enjoyable of a meeting.  And hearing the history of events I had observed and written about first hand from one of the decision makers was, well, an incredible opportunity.

He was hit with all the questions one could imagine in that short time, but perhaps the one that I most appreciated was related to his offering to resign twice and President Bush refusing to accept either (as we all know, he did, in fact, tender his resignation a third time and it was accepted). 

One of the resignations was offered after Abu Ghraib.  You could tell, even now, that Sec. Rumsfeld was still  both mad and upset about what had happened there, calling it “perverted”.  It had a very negative impact on the image of the military, even if the perception was wrong and he was bothered by that.

He said that after the investigation he looked for someone he could hang it on because he felt someone had to take responsibility for what happened.  But looking at the facts in the case there wasn’t really a single person in the chain of command he could validly point too and say “because of him or her, this happened”. He felt it left him no choice but to take responsibility himself.  He was in charge, it happened on his watch, the damage was extensive and he thought he should fall on the sword and resign his position.  President Bush refused to accept his resignation.

His point was about accountability, something he believes in strongly, but – as many of us have observed – no one seems to take very seriously anymore, especially in DC.  He felt then and still does that he should have been the one to be held accountable for the Abu Ghraib fiasco.  I thought that was pretty telling about the man and his sense of duty and honor. 

Rumsfeld1Ed Morrissey has  a lot more at Hot Air (Ed actually wrote his blog post as we sat there with Rumsfeld – Morrissey is a blogging machine) so be sure to give it a read.

After the meeting began breaking up (and I got my copy of his book signed), he spontaneously offered to take us around the office and show us the memorabilia he’d collected over the years.  It was an incredibly impressive tour (picture on the right of yours truly and Ed Morrissey hearing Rumsfeld tell us about each item).  This is a guy who has served numerous presidents in various capacities (to include two stints as SecDef) for decades.  Additionally, he served as a Navy pilot before getting into public life.

Anyway, one of the pieces of memorabilia that really struck a chord with me was a mangled piece of metal.  It was from the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.  Rumsfeld had picked that up that day as he toured the damage, had it mounted and hung it on the wall in his office at the Pentagon so he could see it every day and be reminded of the job they had to do (you can see it below on the left– sorry for the Rumsfeld3photo quality, but you get the idea).

And while the meeting had a purpose, to publicize his new book, “Known and Unknown”, it was an event I’ll certainly not forget anytime soon.  Later that day, Sec. Rumsfeld received the “Defender of the Constitution” award at CPAC.  I think he’s very deserving of the award. 

While there were some things I disagreed with him about during his tenure – and I’m certainly not here to pretend there weren’t problems during that time -I have to say my perception of the man changed significantly with this meeting.  While I’ve had the book for a couple of days I’ve not had the opportunity to read it in full – only selected parts I was interested in for this meeting.   And to all you folks who contributed questions, I apologize, I was only able to ask one and it concerned the “you go to war with the Army you have” comment and the fall out.  When I brought it up, he laughed, pointed at me and said, “you’d better not say that in public, you might get in trouble”.

I’m looking forward to reading the book … I feel in know the era and events pretty intimately from the time I spent studying and writing about them.  It’s going to be very interesting to read his version (with almost 100 pages of source notes) that was 4 years in the writing.  I’ll be sure to post a review here when I finish.

~McQ

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17 Responses to Lunch with SecDef Rumsfeld

  • John Hinderacker is still at Powerlilne.  It’s Paul Mirengoff who had to quit blogging.

  • Have you read Douglas Feith’s book, War & Decision? I am reading that now, and it is very interesting. I already read Tommy Frank’s book, and I should get Tenet’s book and maybe Bush’s and get a very well rounded picture of the issues.

  • When you post your review perhaps you could refrain from referring to yourself so often. I, I, I, etc.

  • Great post my friend. You’ve come a long way since our 1LT days! :D Do you think you saw the ‘real’ Rumsfeld or the one trying to sell his book? Hope all is well.

    • Hey Joe – I’m not sure about how “far” I’ve come since then but I sure enjoyed the meeting. I think I got to see a particular side of Rumsfeld – hey he’s been doing this a long time and is adroit at projecting the image he wants at the time I’m sure, but whichever Rumsfeld I saw, I liked the guy.

  • I was asking myself wtf am I doing here?

    Winning The Future .. of course

  • “you go to war with the Army you have”

    That is one of those sayings we toss off, like “The sun rises in the east”, that was a no-brainer.  I have NEVER understood the controversy around that, except that the Collective was going to castigate anything this man did, said, or thought while in office.
    For historical perspective, when we went to war in WWII or Korea, we were flat-footed unprepared, and it took many lives to make the transition.

    • Raspierre[T]he Collective was going to castigate anything this man did, said, or thought while in office.

      Exactly: it was all political.  The dems witnessed Bush – a man they LOATHED – becoming something of a national hero after 9-11, and they couldn’t stand it.  So, they took every opportunity to tear down him and his administration, turning (as you say) even the most obvious statements into some sort of “proof” that Bush and his people were heartless, clueless, brainless, or some combination of those. Rummy SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that the enemy would use IED’s and that, therefore, we had to have armored cargo trucks!  Or… maybe he DID know, but didn’t do anything because he WANTED GI’s to be killed!  Yeah, that’s it!  Rummy HATED the military and feasted on the blood of the widows and orphans of GI’s killed in Iraq!

      Bah.

      If MiniTru and the left generally ever had any credibility with me, they lost it all during the war due to the contrived “scandals” they cooked up to discredit Bush.

  • Not sure how I could sit through an entire dinner at the same table with Mary Katherine Hamm. That chick really turns me on.  OK, so this is not a very thoughtful post, but what the hell? VaVaVoom! Hubba hubba.

  • Sorry I’m only the occasional reader, but what did you mean by your changed perception? Did you dislike him before?
    I loved watching his press conferences and the way he made the media look like buffoons. It wasn’t until the war was going badly and even I knew something needed to change, that his “stay the course” mantra made me wonder about what kind of guy he was and if he was even considering changes in strategy.

    • Perception – the image portrayed by the media through their filter and lens vs. the reality of talking to man face to face. The reality changed my perception.

  • who is Secretary of Defense now, does BHO even have one ? we are in deep do

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