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Convinced that many of his critics didn't really know him, he believes he got along well with those with whom he spent the most time. "The people who I worked with for the most part, I think, were fairly comfortable working with me," he said. "It's the people three layers down who would get the ripple effect."
Told that even some senior officers who dealt closely with him found him difficult, Rumsfeld said it was the work itself that was difficult, and he defended his own manner as nothing the officers shouldn't have been able to tolerate. "The idea that guys with three and four stars on their shoulders can't take tough questions well, then, they shouldn't have three or four stars on their shoulders."
Rumsfeld has ascribed much of the negative perception of him and the Bush administration to distorted media coverage. "The intellectual dishonesty on the part of the press is serious," he asserted. He groused about "a strong incentive to be negative and dramatic" that had infused much of the coverage. "It's a formula that works. It gets Pulitzers; it gets promotions; it gets name identification on the front page above the fold."
Part of the formula, Rumsfeld added, involved pillorying him along with Bush and Cheney but sparing Powell and Rice. As an example, he noted accusations that Bush and Cheney had lied about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction in making the case for the invasion of Iraq. "They never say Colin Powell lied," Rumsfeld asserted. "They don't say Condi lied."
Rumsfeld attributed many of the distortions to self-serving accounts provided by State Department and NSC officials. He said that although other top administration officials knew such leaking was going on, they did nothing about it. Even out of office, Rumsfeld has sought to nudge his erstwhile colleagues to correct the record. He wrote Powell, for instance, objecting to statements by Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served as Powell's chief of staff, in which Wilkerson alleged that senior defense officials had quietly encouraged Taiwanese politicians to move toward a declaration of independence from mainland China an act that the Communist regime has repeatedly warned would provoke a military strike.
Rumsfeld's decision while in office not to tell his side of things and to ban his staff from providing insider accounts was motivated, he said, out of a sense of loyalty to the president. He wanted to be able to look Bush in the eye and assert that neither he nor any of his aides were behind any of the stories disclosing the administration's secret discussions. But he has had second thoughts about having kept as mum as he did.
Some associates who served with Rumsfeld during both his stints as defense secretary think he changed over the years. "I refer to him as Don One and Don Two," said James Roche, who was a Navy officer doing strategic planning under the first Don and secretary of the Army under the second. "Don One was a leader, Don Two was a bureaucrat. Don Two was worried about what the White House was doing, what Condi was doing, what Colin was doing."
Ken Adelman, who greatly admired the earlier Rumsfeld but grew increasingly disillusioned with him during the Bush years, wonders whether Rumsfeld fundamentally changed or just appeared different to him. "Maybe he was better before, or maybe I was just wrong about him," Adelman said. "Maybe it's the challenges that were different later. I don't know."
Rumsfeld is in many respects an honorable man, deeply patriotic, a good friend to many, and unfailingly loyal to those he has served and to a number who have served him. He is smart, cunning, and capable of great geniality, all highly desirable qualities in a leader with such power. The challenges he faced were extraordinary waging a counterinsurgency campaign long after the U.S. military had forgotten the lessons of the last one it fought, attempting to transform a Pentagon bureaucracy notoriously resistant to change, coping with a U.S. government deficient in civilian capacity to assist in postwar stabilization and reconstruction.
But for all his complexities or perhaps because of them Rumsfeld has an abiding interest in simple rules. During the second half of his life, he composed lists of them to live by and distributed them freely to others. The homespun compendium of lessons for coping in the federal bureaucracy and corporate world drew largely on quips, aphorisms, and adages that Rumsfeld had read or heard elsewhere. But he fused them into an approach to issues and people that was distinctly his own, confident of his way even as some close to him worried, when he struggled as defense secretary, that he was veering badly off course. By the end of 2006, even his rules couldn't save him any longer.
The above is excerpted from Graham's book By His Own Rules: The Story of Donald Rumsfeld.