Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

If there were such a thing as a dis record in journalism, this would be it. Gwen Ifill takes Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, Known and Unknown, to task for being simply a revenge memoir. She highlights his particular disdain for former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, especially what he called Powell's "skepticism of the administation's initiatives to the point of disloyalty."

Sen. John McCain, Powell aide Dick Armitage and Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton also received some of his ire. He insists that he and others did not lie about the weapons of mass destruction and that Powell was not duped. Check out the excerpt below of Ifill's review:

By definition, memoirists get to tell their stories the way they remember them. The retellings can be gentle or scorching, illuminating or concealing.

Donald Rumsfeld has chosen all of the above in "Known and Unknown," a hefty and heavily annotated accounting and defense of his life in public service.

"Never much of a handwringer, I don't spend a lot of time in recriminations, looking back or second-guessing decisions made in real time with imperfect information by myself or others," he writes.

But hand-wring he does, in repeated blasts of Rumsfeldian score-settling that come off as a cross between setting the record straight and doggedly knocking enemies off pedestals.


There is, indeed a lot about Rumsfeld himself that is known and unknown. Who recalls now that he was considered (and passed over) for vice president three times in three years? Who knew that he was inspired to public service by a liberal Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, and wrote a campaign check to New Jersey Democrat Bill Bradley when he ran for president in 2000? That he, Dick Cheney and Frank Carlucci — all future secretaries of defense — ran Richard Nixon's anti-poverty agency in 1969?

The book is full of little nuggets like that, but at its heart, it is a revenge memoir.

Most readers who came to know of Rumsfeld during the last stage of his remarkable career as secretary of defense for George W. Bush will not be surprised at the tone that runs through much of the book. Rumsfeld, according to Rumsfeld, was prescient, clear-headed, loyal and almost always right.


But he is also acerbic, dismissive and reluctant to admit that he occasionally missed the policy mark. As a member of Congress in 1964, for example, he concedes he should have thought twice before voting for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Later in the volume, he skates over one of the reasons he was essentially fired as defense secretary in 2006: He did not agree that more troops were needed in Iraq.

Mostly, Rumsfeld is certain — never more so than when he is chronicling the deficiencies of others. His list of disdain runs long — from former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, to Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer ("It remained difficult to get him to accept the idea that Iraq belonged to the Iraqis"), to former Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, to former Joint Chiefs chairman Hugh Shelton, Powell aide Richard Armitage, Sen. John McCain and, of course, the news media.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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