Kai Ryssdal interviewed Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for APM’s Marketplace in order to discuss his latest book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules”, anecdotes from his time with the Bush, Reagan and Nixon administrations.
In order to justify his lack of apology over Iraq, Rumsfeld quoted Napoleon and then claimed that Bush didn’t really get it wrong, “… if intelligence were fact it wouldn’t be intelligence. The idea that people concluded that Bush made a terrible mistake by doing it is something that uh, uh, over time will be better understood.”
APM’s Marketplace Rumsfeld interview:
RYSSDAL: I do wonder whether you read Robert McNamara’s memoirs when they came out. Obviously, the secretary of defense during Vietnam.
RUMSFELD: Yah, I have not. I served in Congress during that period.
RYSSDAL: Hmm, alright, well, here’s why I asked. You know, that was, that book was widely seen as an apology for his role in Vietnam, and I looked in this book, uh, pretty hard, for any rule that you might have had about apologizing, and I couldn’t find one.
RUMSFELD: And? What’s your question?
RYSSDAL: Did you ever think about apologizing?
RUMSFELD: Well, my goodness, you know, as Napoleon said, “I’ve been mistaken so many times, I don’t even blush for it anymore.” Um sure, you see things that don’t turn out the way you hope. You look at intelligence, and of course, if intelligence were fact it wouldn’t be intelligence. The idea that people concluded that Bush made a terrible mistake by doing it is something that uh, uh, over time will be better understood.
So, to sum it up for you, in Republican logic, President Obama is expected to get intelligence right within an hour of an attack around the world, and that intelligence must be dead on correct and may not change, or else Republicans will launch a relentless witch hunt against him, replete with feeding the media “emails” (as claimed by ABC, but in reality were not actual emails, but rather a Republican’s misleadingly edited version of said emails) that have been doctored in order to make Obama look bad.
However, former President Bush is excused for getting what Rumsfeld seems to be claiming was inaccurate intelligence, even though his administration cherry picked the intelligence on Iraq and was accused of asking for specific findings in the intelligence, and ignored the preponderance of evidence that in fact Iraq did not have WMD. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we are also to ignore the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, which was an established fact even at the time. Somehow, these deliberate manipulations sold to the press, public and Congress in the lead up to the Iraq invasion are just mistakes not worthy of an apology, because golly, intelligence is not a fact when a Republican is in office.
Also, one day, you will understand Bush’s decision to invade Iraq looking for WMD that didn’t exist, but Rumsfeld won’t tell you why. Just trust him, one day you will and you won’t judge Bush so unfairly, “I think that history over time will probably be a better judge than you or I, but I’ve been struck by the amount of criticism that the Bush administration has received and President Bush personally and the attempts to assign blame to him and I think it’s probably not going to sort out that way.” Yes, bet on that, because Rumsfled is known for being right.
The Republican logic: Bush did not make a mistake by misleading the public and it’s not fair to blame him for Iraq because intel is not fact and it changes, but Obama should be impeached for taking weeks to assess new and ever-changing intel on Benghazi.
It’s worth pointing out that while many in the media focus on the fact checking the executive branch as a showy mea culpa for their Bush appeasement (the press should always push back against all of the government, including the executive branch — that is their job), there is a commonality running between these two presidencies. That commonality is that the Republicans are still lying to the press, the public, and Congress.
Had I worked for the Bush and Nixon administrations, I would make a studious effort to avoid quoting Napoleon, but then, I guess Republicans don’t need to worry about their base making unsavory comparisons between Napoleon and the also exiled (figuratively) Bush and Nixon administrations.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.