Was That Really Donald Rumsfeld?

By Hart Seely
Tuesday, December 4, 2007; 12:00 AM

In Sunday's Outlook there was an essay by Donald Rumsfeld on Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. The Post billed the author as "a former secretary of defense."

This is like calling O.J. Simpson "a former Buffalo Bill."

Five years ago, Rumsfeld strode the earth as America's tribal elder, the veteran quarterback who would topple Saddam, dismantle Iraq's doomsday machine and restore dollar-a-gallon gasoline. Whether chiding the media or decrying life's "unknown unknowns," he stole every news conference. Then the war soured, and Rumsfeld began to look like the publisher who rejected Harry Potter, the guy who traded all his draft picks for Eli Manning.

Since the 2006 elections, Rumsfeld has been sitting in the penalty box, presumably writing his memoirs and mulling a comeback. If Hugo Chavez is the new Saddam, there's no better time than now.

But essays won't supply the Rumsfeld fix we crave.

Trust me on this. I know how Rumsfeld talks. In a previous incarnation, I read his every speech and transcript the slow, painful way -- moving my lips with each word. I can tell you that Sunday's essay did not bubble forth from the mineral springs of Rumsfeld's soul. Rather, it gurgled out like the scratchings of a man who sleeps with Alan Greenspan tapes playing in the pillow.

Of course, it's just one essay. Still, it pains me to see Rumsfeld tell of "building the global architecture" or advocate "a 21st century U.S. Agency for Global Communications." I flinch thinking of Rumsfeld in a Pentagon news gaggle, karate-chopping the air and barking, "Endemic inertia and corruption threaten to render the United Nations even less effective in the 21st century."

"Endemic inertia?" These are weenie words, pulled not from Rumsfeld's lexicon but from Roget's Thesaurus. Where is the old warrior who railed about shaved gorillas, electric fans and aerial photographs on the Internet? Where is Rumsfeld, the philosopher? Rumsfeld, the rock star?

Rumsfeld, the poet?

Back in the salad days of 2002, Rumsfeld warned of endemic inertia in a far more artistic way:

It's always hard.
It's always hard.
Change is hard for people.
We know that.

You get up in the morning,
And the first thing you want to do,
You don't want to change,
You want to do what you're doing.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company