The news of the death of Donald Rumsfeld will doubtless bring back a plethora of stories and memories dating back to the time when Richard Nixon was living in the White House. The Republican power broker, highly controversial defense secretary and architect of the failed Iraq War – died Tuesday, days before his 89th birthday.
I am currently on chapter 34 of John Meacham’s terrific read about President George Herbert Walker Bush. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush is one of the books I am juggling this summer, reading topics and subjects as the mood strikes. The death of Rumsfeld today occurs with this book providing an honest appraisal of the man which Bush noted was an “arrogant fellow.”
Speaking of Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense for President George Bush (43), the elder member of the family did not let anyone guess what he truly meant when speaking about Rumsfeld in hours of conversation with Meacham.
“I think he served the president badly,” Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything. I’ve never been that close to him anyway. There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that.”
He was particularly critical of Rumsfeld, which stands out from the usual respectful tone that is practiced with words from Bush. He added that, “Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow and self-assured, swagger.”
From a political perspective, the fractures in their relationship can be summed up this way.
The quick version starts with the years Gerald Ford was president. Rumsfeld was Ford’s chief of staff, and Bush was appointed envoy to China. The resignations of Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew had left the vice presidency open, and Bush was a top candidate for the post.
But then the intrigues gains steam as Rumsfeld went all out to ensure Nelson Rockefeller was named. One of the reasons long associated with the deeds of Rumsfeld was, during the VP selection process news emerging of potential campaign-finance irregularities during Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 Texas campaign for Senate. Most accounts clearly point to Rumsfeld leaking the news in an effort to hurt Bush’s VP chances. The scandal kept popping back up to hurt Bush throughout the rest of his political career.
At times like this, when less than honorable men pass away, the stories and inside accounts of the history they made, or tried to make, allows for a wider understanding of their lives, and the consequences of their actions.