On radio this morning, Glenn interviewed former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the latest scandals to rock the White House and his new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership, Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life.
“We have Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on with us,” Glenn said. “Here’s a guy that, you know, everybody said he and Dick Cheney were the worst of the worst. ‘They were awful. My gosh, we’ve got to stop them.’ They weren’t intimidating people like this. They weren’t using the IRS. And they weren’t tapping people’s phones. They weren’t doing all of these things.”
While Glenn is not a big fan of the Bush administration, he has always appreciated Rumsfeld’s candor and conviction. “We have been a fan of yours from the beginning,” Glenn explained, “because you’re one of the few people that actually say what you mean and mean what you say. And you stand by it. There’s no mealy mouth about you.”
“Well, thank you,” Rumsfeld responded. “One of my rules in my new book is that dogs don’t bark at parked cars. And if you do something, somebody’s not going to like it and you have to be comfortable with that and life goes on.”
In the case of both Benghazi and the IRS, Rumsfeld noted there is a common thread involving the government turning on its people. “I think that is something that is so unacceptable in our society,” he said.
Benghazi is a unique situation because all evidence seems to suggest that the government could have potentially saved the four Americans who died on September 11, 2012, but instead they chose to do nothing. “I don’t recall a time in American history where we had the capability of saving people and we said, ‘Let them die. Abandon,’” Glenn observed.
“You know, we lost four public servants,” Rumsfeld said. “And the British saw the threat and pulled their people out, and our people saw the threat and reported back that they needed greater security and they didn’t receive it. And then once that happened and they were under attack, it appears that there were capabilities that might have been used. But I think the hearings that Congress is having are very important.”
In his new book, Rumsfeld provides leadership advice in the form of ‘rules’ he has picked up over the years from the people he has met, worked with, and known. There have always been those who question President Obama’s leadership both at home and abroad, but given the lack of oversight he seems to have even within the confines of his own administration, these questions have become more fervent than ever.
“I mean, somebody in the White House characterized his leadership role overseas as leading from behind. In this case he’s leading from behind even internally in the White House,” Rumsfeld said in regards to the President’s leadership strategy. “And the only thing he’s really stepped up and taken responsibility for was SEAL team 6. And the killing of Osama Bin Laden.”
One of the threats Rumsfeld believes this country faces stems from the fact that our leadership in Washington often refuses to recognize the dangers of radical Islam in the Middle East. There are people out there that are raising money and recruiting people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children, radical Islamists whose goal in life is to defeat the idea, the concept of a nation state and impose a Caliphate,” Rumsfeld said. “And the fact that this President will not even acknowledge that and calls the Fort Hood killings workplace violence and sends up cabinet officers who aren’t even willing to mention that there’s such a thing as Islamism…”
“I have to tell you, I am amazed that you would say that,” Glenn responded. “How can we possibly survive if the only time I’ve really ever heard anybody of any importance talk about a Caliphate is right now with you?”
If people begin to accept the fact that a War on Terror does in fact exist and is an ongoing threat to America, Rumsfeld suggested it is a fight we can win – but not with bullets. “It’s not like World War II or World War I or Vietnam. It’s more like the Cold War. You have to be willing to compete against the, in the ideological space. And if you’re not willing to even identify the enemy, it seems to me you don’t have a chance of prevailing.”
While the vast majority of Muslims are not Islamist radicals, we have to be willing to identify the people who are radical and are a threat to this country. “We are a country that believes in freedom of religion and we’ve demonstrated that,” he explained. “But I don’t see how we can prevail like we did in the Cold War over decades against this enemy unless we’re willing to identify the enemy.”
When it comes to the latest scandal involving the Department of Justice subpoenaing the phone conversations of AP reporters, Rumsfeld has a unique perspective considering he was a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act when it was passed in the 1960s.
“It’s inconceivable,” Rumsfeld said about the notion President Obama had no idea the Department of Justice had subpoenaed the AP. “He’d have to be informed. If his Attorney General says this is one of the most serious – one, two, or three most serious things he’s ever seen by way of damage to our national security in terms of a leak – the President would unquestionably have to be informed… And I guess at some point we’ll know what it was, what was leaked and what the damage was. And we’ll be able to make our own judgments about it. I would defer coming to a conclusion until I have more information.”
Ultimately, we can all agree that strong leadership is going to be the key to getting this country back on track, and the leadership of this administration (scandal or no scandal) has not been up to snuff.
“Where do we end up if we don’t act, if we don’t change our course,” Glenn asked.
“Well, you hate to even think of the thought that there could be a tipping point, but I suppose in many things in life, there can be a tipping point,” Rumsfeld said. “I’m 81 in July. And every time I’ve seen things get bad, I’ve seen the American people get out of their chairs and change their priorities and if the pendulum goes too far in one way, they push it back. And I’ve always had a lot of confidence in that… I still have confidence in this country of ours, but I have to be realistic. I think it’s conceivable you could get to a tipping point where there weren’t enough people ready to push it back. And that’s why I mentioned the comment about reading history and having our schools teach civics and the responsibility that each of us have to help guide and direct the course of our country.”