Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells Newsmax that the budget cuts being forced upon the Defense Department could be "harmful and damaging" to the country's strength -- and "provocative" to our enemies.
He also asserts that the Obama administration needs to tell the truth regarding the IRS scandal because the worst thing that can happen in a democracy is for people to "not trust their leadership."
Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977, then under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006. His new book, "Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life
," features a collection of wise and instructive adages he has collected over his long career.
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Washington is being rocked by several scandals, including disclosures that the IRS targeted tea party and other conservative groups.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Rumsfeld was asked if these recent events remind him of anything he had to deal with while working in Washington.
"Each presidency has various types of crises that can come along," he says.
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"I happened to be ambassador to NATO living in Belgium when the Watergate crisis hit, so I missed that one. But I lived with the aftermath of it because when President Nixon resigned and President Ford came in, he asked me to chair his transition to the presidency and then serve as his White House chief of staff.
"It is a tough thing to cope with when a presidency is embattled.
"The Internal Revenue [Service] problem, it seems to me, is a very serious one in the sense that those of us who are privileged to live in this country don't think about the idea that government could turn on us because government is big, it's got a lot of tax dollars, it's got a lot of people, and the thought that the [IRS] would, for political reasons, attack elements in our society means that another administration could do that to another element in this society.
"That is something the American people will feel deeply about and I hope there are hearings on this and the truth comes out. Right now the White House ought to think about taking a deep breath and then getting the facts out and telling the American people the truth."
Asked what rules in his new book come to mind when any organization or leader is faced with multiple crises, Rumsfeld tells Newsmax: "The first thing one has to do is not allow anyone to put out information that is anything other than absolutely accurate.
"And the worst thing that can happen in a democracy is for the people to not trust their leadership. Any administration dealing with a crisis has a first responsibility to tell the truth and to see that what they say is accurate and that it doesn't come back and damage the credibility of our political leadership."
Some observers have sounded the alarm about military readiness due to the Defense Department cuts mandated by the sequestration.
Rumsfeld comments: "There's no question that if you don't have the flexibility to make reductions where reductions can be made, and instead you're required to do it across the board, then your hands are tied. You're going to end up doing some things that are a good idea and you're going to end up doing other things that are harmful and damaging to our strength.
"One of the worst parts of what's taking place with this so-called sequestration, this mindless across-the-board cutting, is the signal that's being sent out across the globe that the United States is going to retrench, that the United States is not going to have the kinds of capabilities that we have been able to have to contribute to a more peaceful and more stable world.
"What that means is that to the extent that weakness is provocative, which it is, it encourages people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise even think of doing. That vacuum we've created, a leadership vacuum in the world by the way we're mismanaging our economy, the deficits and the debt that we've incurred, and the sequestration where we're showing we're going to retrench, that vacuum's going to be filled with people who don’t have the values that the United States has, and who are going to do things that are adverse to our interests.
"After each major war this country's been in, there's been a big cutback and it creates what they call in the Pentagon a 'bathtub,' a reduction in our intelligence capabilities, a reduction in our resources. And every president that comes into office has available to them only the resources that were left by their predecessor.
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"What will happen is we won't feel it terribly in the immediate period, during the last 3½
years of the Obama administration. But the next president's going to be faced with a situation of weakness and a weakened deterrent, and that is provocative."
Rumsfeld adds that it is a "tragic thing" that some military veterans have been waiting for more than a year for the benefit applications to be reviewed by the Veterans Administration.
He also discusses the genesis of his new book, "Rumsfeld's Rules."
"My mother was a schoolteacher. She taught me to make a note if I didn't understand a word or I had an interesting thought I heard from somebody, and I've been doing it most of my life and I just decided to pull them all together. President Ford named them Rumsfeld's Rules when he heard me talking about some of these things. People have asked for copies so I decided to go ahead and write them up.
"I've been asked for copies of Rumsfeld's Rules ever since 1974 and at one point The New York Times wrote an article about them, and then The Wall Street Journal did, and more people started asking for copies. So in the back of my mind I always thought maybe someday I'll do a book about the rules and I've enjoyed doing it. It's been fun to put them down and try to capture some of the background about the rules.
"We have a chapter on the military, we have a chapter on business, a chapter on capitalism, a chapter on how to run a meeting, a chapter on how to pick people.
"It's appropriate for people to reflect on some of the wise things people have said. I've got quotes from people like George Shultz and Henry Kissinger and Confucius and Sun Tzu and Mrs. Thatcher and various presidents. They're people a lot smarter than me and they're certainly not all my rules. They're rules I've collected from people that are wise and who I've respected and admired."
In his exclusive Newsmax interview, Rumsfeld also offers his views on why the Obama administration is so reluctant to use the word "terrorism."
Editor's Note: Read the exclusive Newsmax excerpt of Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: Obama Foolish to Avoid Using Term 'Terrorism'
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