Kai Ryssdal, mild-mannered reporter for
NPR APM's Marketplace, sat down with Donald Rumsfeld to discuss his new book, "Rumsfeld's Rules", a guide for 'effective leadership' (required reading for anyone who wants to know the fastest way to lead downhill). As soon as Rumsfeld walked through the door, Mr. Ryssdal tore his shirt off, revealing the yellow and red 'S' emblazoned on his muscular chest.
Don't believe me? Listen for yourself.
The full 6-minute interview consists of Mr. Ryssdal probing Mr. Rumsfeld for some hint of contrition for or even just acknowledgement of his mistakes. None was forthcoming. Mr. Ryssdal's contempt was palpable, as it should have been. Some good excerpts:
Ryssdal: It’s easier, you say, to get into something than it is to get out of it. And I, I can’t help but wonder where we would be in this country today if you guys had been thinking of that ten years ago.
Rumsfeld: I thought of that when I was President Reagan’s Middle East envoy and we had 241 Marines killed at Beirut [in 1983], at the airport. And I concluded then that the United States has to be careful about putting ground forces in because we’re such a big target. And I also over the years came to the conclusion over the years that the United States really wasn’t organized, trained and equipped to do nation-building. So if you think of Afghanistan…
Ryssdal: …Yeah, wait, hang on a minute. I sorta can’t believe these words are coming out of your mouth, ten years later. So this was on your mind as Iraq was burbling up?
Ryssdal: And yet here we are.
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, as Napoleon said, "I've been mistaken so many times, I don't even blush for it anymore."
I wonder if that's the first time Rumsfeld has ever been confronted like that, in a situation where he can't just call security to escort his critics away. It's not much consolation for all the loss the nation has suffered at his hands, but it makes me feel a little better, just a little, that he might be sleeping a little worse tonight.
EDIT: Thanks for the recs! I'm about to board a flight from Rhode Island to Alaska, so I'll be offline for a while.