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Wikipedia Summary for Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Henry Rumsfeld (July 9, 1932 – June 29, 2021) was an American politician, government official and businessman who served as secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977 under president Gerald Ford, and again from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He was both the youngest and the oldest secretary of defense. Additionally, Rumsfeld was a three-term U.S. Congressman from Illinois (1963–1969), director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (1969–1970), counselor to the president (1969–1973), the U.S. Representative to NATO (1973–1974), and the White House Chief of Staff (1974–1975). Between his terms as secretary of defense, he served as the CEO and chairman of several companies.

Born in Illinois, Rumsfeld attended Princeton University, graduating in 1954 with a degree in political science. After serving in the Navy for three years, he mounted a campaign for Congress in Illinois's 13th Congressional District, winning in 1962 at the age of 30. While in Congress, he was a leading co-sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act. Rumsfeld accepted an appointment by President Richard Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969; appointed counsellor by Nixon and entitled to Cabinet-level status, he also headed up the Economic Stabilization Program before being appointed ambassador to NATO. Called back to Washington in August 1974, Rumsfeld was appointed chief of staff by President Ford. Rumsfeld recruited a young one-time staffer of his, Dick Cheney, to succeed him when Ford nominated him to be Secretary of Defense in 1975. When Ford lost the 1976 election, Rumsfeld returned to private business and financial life, and was named president and CEO of the pharmaceutical corporation G. D. Searle & Company. He was later named CEO of General Instrument from 1990 to 1993 and chairman of Gilead Sciences from 1997 to 2001.

Rumsfeld was appointed Secretary of Defense for a second time in January 2001 by President George W. Bush. As Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld played a central role in the invasion of Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq. Before and during the Iraq War, he claimed that Iraq had an active weapons of mass destruction program; yet no stockpiles were ever found. A Pentagon Inspector General report found that Rumsfeld's top policy aide "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers". Rumsfeld's tenure was controversial for its use of torture and the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. Rumsfeld gradually lost political support and resigned in late 2006. In his retirement years, he published an autobiography, Known and Unknown, as well as Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life. He died on June 29, 2021, at the age of 88.

I don't do quagmires.

--Donald Rumsfeld

There is no question but that when one is engaged militarily that there are going to be unintended loss of life.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Keep your sense of humor. As General Joe Stillwell said, The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The success of an organization will depend on the people you surround yourself with.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Learn to say 'I don't know.' If used when appropriate, it will be often.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Don't accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the President that you're free to tell him what you think with the bark off and you have the courage to do it.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Certainty without power can be interesting, even amusing. Certainty with power can be dangerous.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The Cold War was a war, and we won it.

--Donald Rumsfeld

To gain support in U.S. Congress and from other nations requires clarity, an acceptable mission and an explicit outcome.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Find ways to decentralize. Move decision making authority down and out. Encourage a more entrepreneurial approach.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I tend over the years to have developed a certain hesitancy about believing that headlines tell the whole story.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Those who made the decisions with imperfect knowledge will be judged in hindsight by those with considerably more information at their disposal and time for reflection.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Don't say 'the White House wants.' Buildings can't want.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I'm glad you asked. It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Listening to both sides does not necessarily bring about a correct judgment.

--Donald Rumsfeld

We have an orientation that tends to make us think that everything is our responsibility and that we should be doing this. It is the Iraqis' country, 28 million of them. They are perfectly capable of running that country.

--Donald Rumsfeld

And there is, I am certain, among the Iraqi people a respect for the care and the precision that went into the bombing campaign.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When it comes to reconstruction, before we turn to the American taxpayer, we will turn first to the resources of the Iraqi government and the international community.

--Donald Rumsfeld

If there are people who yearn for the days when Saddam Hussein was in power, then I am not among them.

--Donald Rumsfeld

It is hard to put a price on some things. What is the value of having prevented nuclear weapons from getting into the hands of a dictator like Saddam Hussein -- or of Gadhafi?

--Donald Rumsfeld

The problem is the people who tend to be the best organized are the most radical and the most vicious.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Let your family, staff, and friends know that you're still the same person, despite all the publicity and notoriety that accompanies your position.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I think it's very useful for you folks (reporters) to try your damndest to be precise. And don't repeat things that are inaccurate if you can possibly avoid it. And when you see things that are inaccurate, knock them down -- because there's a bucket of it floating around.

--Donald Rumsfeld

In unanimity there may well be either cowardice or uncritical thinking.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Strive to make proposed solutions as self-executing as possible. As the degree of discretion increases, so too does bureaucracy, delay, and expense.

--Donald Rumsfeld

There will be good moments, and there will be less good moments.

--Donald Rumsfeld

After he saw what happened to Saddam Hussein, he (Gadhafi) did not want to be Saddam Hussein. He gave up his nuclear program.

--Donald Rumsfeld

It is the photographs that gives one the vivid realization of what actually took place. (On photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.).

--Donald Rumsfeld

Move decisions out to the Cabinet and agencies. Strengthen them by moving responsibility, authority, and accountability their direction.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When I served as US Ambassador to NATO in the 1970s, the center of gravity in Europe was France and Germany.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The worst thing you can do is allow a coalition to determine what your mission is.

--Donald Rumsfeld

One thing appears reasonably certain, and that's that those who make allegations of a culture of deception, of intimidation or cover-up need to be extremely careful about such accusations.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Every country should be tired of going to war. War is a terrible thing. If I had been in Congress, as much as I would be inclined naturally to be supportive of a president, any president, I would have voted no, had the issue come to a vote.

--Donald Rumsfeld

After the German abstention at the UN, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle commented that Germany doesn't always have to stand on the side of its traditional allies. Berlin can look for new partners all over the world.

--Donald Rumsfeld

If you are working from your inbox, you are working on other people's priorities.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Inspectors do not have the duty or the ability to uncover terrible weapons hidden in a vast country. The responsibility of inspectors is simply to confirm evidence of voluntary and total disarmament. Saddam Hussein has the responsibility to provide that evidence, as directed, and in full.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Look at me! I'm sweet and lovable!

--Donald Rumsfeld

You might be a cunning linguist, but I am a master debater.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Never assume the other fellow will not do something you wouldn't do.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Don't 'over-control' like a novice pilot. Stay loose enough from the flow that you can observe it, modify, and improve it.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The most underestimated risk for a politician is overexposure.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Success tends to go not to the person who is error-free, because he also tends to be risk-averse. Rather it goes to the person who recognizes that life is pretty much a percentage business. It isn't making mistakes that's critical; it's correcting them and getting on with the principal task.

--Donald Rumsfeld

From where you sit, the White House may look as untidy as the inside of a stomach. As is said of the legislative process, sausage-making and policy-making shouldn't be seen close-up. Don't let that panic you. Things may be going better than they look from the inside.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Sausage making and policy-making shouldn't be seen close-up.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Presidential leadership needn't always cost money. Look for low- and no-cost options. They can be surprisingly effective.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The dead-enders are still with us, those remnants of the defeated regimes who'll go on fighting long after their cause is lost.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I suppose the implication of that is the president and the vice president and myself and Colin Powell just fell off a turnip truck to take these jobs.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The implication that there was something wrong with the war plan is amusing.

--Donald Rumsfeld

There's no debate in the world as to whether people have weapons of mass destruction... We all know that. A trained ape knows that.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Any country on the face of the Earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Our goal is to defend the American people, and to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and to liberate the Iraqi people.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Within a week, or a month, Saddam could give his WMD to al-Qaeda.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When starting at the bottom, be willing to learn from those at the top.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When someone with a rural accent says, I don't know much about politics, zip up your pockets.

--Donald Rumsfeld

General Boykin has requested that an inspector general review this matter. And I have indicated that if that's his request, I think it's appropriate.

--Donald Rumsfeld

They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer.

--Donald Rumsfeld

We never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Many people around the President have sizeable egos before entering government, some with good reason. Their new positions will do little to moderate their egos.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Walk around. If you are invisible, the mystique of the President's office may perpetuate inaccurate impressions about you or the President, to his detriment. After all, you may not be as bad as they're saying.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Is it likely that an aircraft carrier or a cruise missile is going to find a person?

--Donald Rumsfeld

Have a deputy and develop a successor. Don't be consumed by the job or you'll risk losing your balance. Keep your mooring lines to the outside world -- family, friends, neighbors, people out of government, and people who may not agree with you.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Most US presidents since World War II have led military actions without a declaration of war by Congress, though most, if not all, have properly consulted and sought support from Congress. That is the wise thing to do.

--Donald Rumsfeld

You can have a broad popular democracy movement and have it end being taken over by the most vicious people and the result is you don't end up with free political systems or free economic systems, you end up with a handful of radicals controlling the country.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Most of the 50 or so invitations you receive each week come from people inviting the President's Chief of Staff, not you. If you doubt that, ask your predecessor how many he received last week.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Every president when he is elected has to live with the pluses and minuses his predecessor leaves, which includes benefits as well as burdens.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Control your time. If you're working off your in-box, you're working off the priorities of others. Be sure the staff is working on what you move to them from the President, or the President will be reacting, not leading.

--Donald Rumsfeld

No terror state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Pieces of intelligence, scraps of intelligence...you run down leads and you run down leads, and you hope that sometimes it works.

--Donald Rumsfeld

The Federal Government should be the last resort, not the first. Ask if a potential program is truly a federal responsibility or whether it can better be handled privately, by voluntary organizations, or by local or state governments.

--Donald Rumsfeld

NATO member states vary dramatically in their capability and in their political steadfastness.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Know that the immediate staff and others in the Administration will assume that your manner, tone and tempo reflect the President's.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Watch the growth of middle level management. Don't automatically fill vacant jobs. Leave some positions unfilled for 6-8 months to see what happens. You will find you won't need to fill some of them.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Being Vice President is difficult. Don't make it tougher.

--Donald Rumsfeld

If a prospective Presidential approach can't be explained clearly enough to be understood well, it probably hasn't been thought through well enough. If not well understood by the American people, it probably won't 'sail' anyway. Send it back for further thought.

--Donald Rumsfeld

There are a lot of things that are said by people in the military, or civilian life, or in the Congress, or in the Executive Branch, that are their views. And that's the way we live. We're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our country.

--Donald Rumsfeld

At 78 years old, I am not surprised at much anymore. Germany has taken divergent positions before, so has France, so has England, so has the US.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When business accepts help from the government, it can be like going to bed with a hippopotamus. It's nice and warm for the moment, but then your bedmate rolls over and crushes you.

--Donald Rumsfeld

One of your tasks is to separate the 'personal' from the 'substantive.' The two can become confused, especially if someone rubs the President wrong.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When you're skiing, if you're not falling you're not trying.

--Donald Rumsfeld

If it were a fact, it wouldn't be called intelligence.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Imagine, a September 11 with weapons of mass destruction. It's not 3,000. It's tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

--Donald Rumsfeld

You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe.

--Donald Rumsfeld

There are people who in large measure have information that we need ... so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.

--Donald Rumsfeld

When there happens to be a weapon of mass destruction suspect site in an area that we occupy and if people have time, they'll look at it.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I don't know anybody that I can think of who has contended that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

--Donald Rumsfeld

I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Longer Version:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.


You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Five days or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last longer.

--Donald Rumsfeld

Then there are three or four countries that have said they won't do anything. I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are ones that have indicated they won't help in any respect.

--Donald Rumsfeld

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