“The road not traveled is always smoother,” former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a packed audience at the Nixon Library Wednesday evening during his first West Coast public appearance since the release of his new memoir, Known and Unknown. Like many of his other quick-witted quips, Secretary Rumsfeld’s point reflected a man who has spent his life in the arena, eager for new challenges and equipped with an unrelenting poise and energy to handle them.
Rumsfeld was received by a long standing ovation and was joined on stage in the East Room by talk show superstar Hugh Hewitt for a discussion on his service to four Presidents beginning with Richard Nixon, the planning and tough decisions that led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the challenges America faces in its war against terrorism.
As a third-term member of Congress, Rumsfeld was appointed as a floor manager during the 1968 convention in Miami, where he was invited to advise Richard Nixon on the selection of a running mate.
“I was a young Congressman and I got a note at 10 o’clock at night saying that after the voting is over and he’s nominated come up to this pent house room where the nominee is going to be talking about who he was going to select as Vice President,” Rumsfeld remembered. “And I got in the room… and there are all the great Republican leaders: Barry Goldwater was there, Tom Dewey was there…. and Billy Graham was there, Bob Finch was there, John Mitchell was there, and little Donny Rumsfeld.” “We sat down and the nominee walked around the room and asked everyone their views.”
Months later, President Nixon persuaded the young Illinois Congressman to join his administration as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Rumsfeld found his new boss to be “one of the brightest Presidents” he’s ever observed, very deliberative and analytical, always outlining and weighing options on major policy decisions.
Serving a total of four Presidents (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George W. Bush) in variety of high profile assignments, Rumsfeld found President Bush to be very decisive, especially steadfast in his approach after the attacks of 9/11 and during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He, however, countered mis-notions that the 43rd President was a tone-deaf unilateralist.
“Nonsense!” Said Rumsfeld. “The coalition was over 90 countries, sharing intelligence, tracking bank accounts, trying to see who’s funding these terrorists”… forming coalitions for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and “coalitions of different types to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
“You know the effort and I would submit you know the result. There has not been a successful attack on the United States of America in close to a decade.”
All proceeds to Known and Unknown are donated to charities and organizations that serve the men and women of the United States Military.
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Due to technical issues, the first 20 minutes of Secretary Rumsfeld’s discussion with Hugh Hewitt is omitted from the video.
If you are unable to attend the event but still want to buy an autographed copy of Known and Unknown, click here to order,