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Rumsfeld versus Rumsfeld

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mann3may03,0,7051793.story?coll=la-home-commentary Rumsfeld versus Rumsfeld By James Mann, JAMES MANN is
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2006

      Rumsfeld versus Rumsfeld
      By James Mann, JAMES MANN is the author of "Rise of
      the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet." He is
      author in residence at Johns Hopkins' Paul H. Nitze
      School of Advanced International Studies.
      May 3, 2006

      SUPPOSE YOU ARE a new White House chief of staff. One
      of the difficulties you face is an extraordinarily
      powerful, well-entrenched Cabinet secretary who enjoys
      the strong support of the president. What do you do?
      Not to be vague about it: How should Joshua B. Bolten,
      who is driving to reshape the Bush administration,
      deal with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who
      is fast becoming a political liability and may resist
      any serious change of direction?

      There's already a model for this. It was set by none
      other than the young Rumsfeld himself, when he became
      White House chief of staff in the Ford administration
      and was confronted with the overwhelming authority of
      Henry A. Kissinger, then secretary of State and
      national security advisor.

      When Ford became president after Richard Nixon's
      resignation in 1974, he summoned Rumsfeld, his old
      friend from the days when the two were congressmen.
      Rumsfeld, who had been serving as Nixon's ambassador
      to NATO, quickly recruited Dick Cheney — his top aide
      in two earlier jobs — to serve as deputy chief of
      staff. At the time, the two had no mandate to
      challenge Kissinger. On the contrary, as Cheney later
      recalled, Ford's instructions to his new White House
      aides were to take control of domestic policy and to
      "stay out of the national security area." That was to
      be left entirely in Kissinger's hands.

      Nevertheless, over the next 15 months, Rumsfeld
      whittled down Kissinger's role in national security
      and took on more and more power. How did he do it? And
      how might the young Rumsfeld have taken on the
      formidable Rumsfeld of today? Here are lessons for
      Bolten from Rumsfeld's early career:

      1) Bide your time. In the early months, Rumsfeld left
      Kissinger alone and went after lesser rivals. You need
      time to redefine the issues.

      2) Don't target him directly. Instead, go after his
      bureaucratic empire.

      The early Rumsfeld cut down Kissinger by arguing,
      rightly, that the same individual should not serve as
      both secretary of State and national security advisor.
      Someone challenging Rumsfeld today could fault his
      Pentagon for battling to maintain its control over
      agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office
      and the National Security Agency. Focusing on the
      secretary of Defense's turf battles with other
      agencies is one way of pointing out that Rumsfeld's
      disputes extend beyond his struggles with the career

      3) Invoke the issue of openness. In the final, chaotic
      hours of the Vietnam War, Kissinger erred by allowing
      the media to be told that all Americans were out of
      Vietnam, at a time when some U.S. Marines were still
      struggling to get out of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
      Rumsfeld ordered the press secretary to make it
      public. "This war has been marked by so many lies and
      evasions that it is not right to have the war end with
      one last lie," Rumsfeld said.

      Noble sentiments. Bolten could similarly make clear
      that he favors greater access for the media to
      information about the war — disclosures that might not
      reflect well on Rumsfeld.

      4. Let the Republican rank and file go after the
      Cabinet secretary's top political patron. Kissinger
      was dominant inside Washington but not within the
      Republican Party. Politics was the job of Kissinger's
      longtime friend and patron Nelson Rockefeller, who at
      the time was vice president of the United States.
      Sound familiar?

      By the fall of 1975, Republican leaders grew
      increasingly disenchanted with Rockefeller, and
      President Ford decided to distance himself from his
      own second in command. Once Rockefeller was
      neutralized within the Republican Party, Kissinger's
      authority eroded too. Rumsfeld, who had clashed with
      Rockefeller inside the White House, did little to
      shield him. Bolten should keep in mind that Rumsfeld's
      standing today is linked to Cheney's, and if Cheney's
      position weakens, Rumsfeld's will too.

      5. Let Capitol Hill do the heavy lifting. Ford
      nominated Rumsfeld as secretary of Defense in the fall
      of 1975, at the same time elevating Cheney to White
      House chief of staff. At Rumsfeld's confirmation
      hearing, he was grilled by Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson,
      who demanded to know why Kissinger, as secretary of
      State, possessed so much more authority, and so much
      greater access to the president, than did the
      secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld gave bland answers in
      his testimony — and then went back and secretly sent a
      transcript of the hearings to the president, showing
      him Jackson's queries.

      6. Inside the administration, question policies
      secretly but vigorously. During the Nixon years,
      Rumsfeld became the center of a group of
      domestic-policy aides who questioned Kissinger's
      policies by asking why the Vietnam War was dragging
      on. In the Ford years, Cheney wrote a biting internal
      memo dissenting from the Ford-Kissinger decision to
      deny a White House meeting to Soviet dissident
      Alexander Solzhenitsyn. None of this leaked, but it
      had a considerable impact inside the administration.
      In a similar vein, Bolten could begin quietly asking
      why the Iraq war is dragging on, or otherwise
      challenge the drift of the administration.

      7. Study "Rumsfeld's Rules," the series of
      observations about public life that he wrote in the
      1970s. They may prove useful in the coming months.
      Three decades ago, Rumsfeld wrote: "Don't think of
      yourself as indispensable or infallible. As Charles
      DeGaulle said, the cemeteries of the world are full of
      indispensable men…. Have a deputy and develop a
      successor." The Rumsfeld rules also contain this gem:
      "It is easier to get into something than to get out of
      it." But then, that was a long time ago.
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