Tags: Rumsfeld | business | defense | US

Rummy Dispenses Wit and Wisdom

By    |   Monday, 30 December 2013 06:36 AM

Former congressman, diplomat, both the youngest and oldest Defense Secretary, pharma CEO, Mr. Everything in a succession of Republican administrations Donald Rumsfeld appeared before a wildly enthusiastic audience at the Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., to discuss his recent book, Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life.

Rumsfeld remarked that at age 81 he has lived a third of the history of the young United States. I recall Rumsfeld as a RINO in good standing, but on this occasion his message was distinctly conservative and marked by his inveterate Midwestern optimism. He recalled that his mother was a teacher and as a child he got in the habit of writing down his thoughts and observations on three-by-five cards, a practice he maintains to this day.

He advised young people starting their careers that "A's hire A's, while B's hire C's."
Therefore, the intelligence of the people one works with and can learn from is more important than the nature of the job. (A Wharton labor professor advised my class that it is also healthy for a young person to get fired from the first job.) Rumsfeld dropped out of law school halfway through, and he ruefully noted that there are now 10,000 lawyers in the Pentagon.

When a young woman asked his advice as she contemplates a legal career, he didn't let his disdain for the profession stop him from giving her a dose of optimistic encouragement.
Rumsfeld cited Herman Kahn and William F. Buckley as early influences. (I spoke with Kahn and can attest that Kahn's interest extended to domestic issues, as well as to nuclear weapons issues.)

In his business career, Rumsfeld entered G. D. Searle at the top and was credited, so to speak, with gaining FDA approval for the artificial sweetener aspartame.

Now he turned his attention to the state of corporate America and criticized the business community for not doing enough to defend capitalism. Specifically, he faults business for not complaining enough about the adverse effects of delay and uncertainty, as well as the complexity of the tax system, on the economy.

Rumsfeld also drew an invidious comparison between the attitude of the public sector and that of private-sector companies when it comes to spending other people's money. (This comment begs the question of how this idea relates to the practices of industries like defense, healthcare, agriculture, education and the financial sector, which more or less depend on government.)

On the subject of defense policy, Rumsfeld expressed regret that the United States has cut back to spending 4 percent of its budget on defense, while allies are spending 2 percent. He worried that this is not enough to enable the United States "to contribute to a more peaceful and stable world."

Rumsfeld faulted the administration for leaving its diplomats exposed to attack in Benghazi, while the Brits saw the danger and withdrew. He ridiculed President Obama for jetting to a fundraiser in Las Vegas as the action unfolded, and he further challenged the administration story that the attack grew out of a video.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Former congressman, diplomat, both the youngest and oldest Defense Secretary, Mr. Everything in a succession of Republican administrations Donald Rumsfeld appeared recently before a wildly enthusiastic audience to discuss his new book.
Monday, 30 December 2013 06:36 AM
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