Rumsfeld ruminates

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke to a crowd of 280 here Monday on topics ranging from the Ukraine to the U.S. political system. — Standard-Radio Post/Ken Esten Cooke

By Ken Esten Cooke —

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” goes an old saying, and that is one thing that worries Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Rumsfeld was in Fredericksburg Monday for the Admiral Nimitz Foundation’s Distinguished Speaker Series, held at the St. Mary’s Holy Family Center. A sell-out crowd of 280 people attended.

The event, the Admiral Nimitz Foundation’s Distinguished Speaker Series, saw Rumsfeld lead a conversational discussion and answer questions on everything from politics, to the legacy of the Iraq war, to his own worries.

“I was asked ‘what keeps me up at night?’” the former cabinet member said. “Today, it is intelligence capabilities. Earlier, it was the perceived American weakness around the globe.”

Rumsfeld talked about his memoir, “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” a collection of rules and sayings that he had collected throughout his life.

“My working title was ‘Dogs Don’t Bark at Parked Cars,’” he joked.

Rumsfeld’s talk was brief — self-described as “sufficiently controversial” — and the 81-year-old remarked that he had witnessed “one third of the country’s history.”

“That either shows what a young country we have, or what an old man I am,” he said.         

Much of his talk focused on “how the country can do better,” which he said was a common question in his travels. He told how he heard Adlai Stevenson at a college banquet in 1954, and his speech influenced him.

“His talk was so elevating,” he said. “The answer to how we can do better is simply looking in the mirror. The idea that I’m only one person and can’t do anything is not true. The solution is each of us and our citizen responsibility.”

Rumsfeld served in the Gerald Ford administration, eventually becoming his chief of staff. He said Ford was “an instant president,” never elected and with no team in place. He described it as “a tough time as the reservoir of trust in the country had been drained.”

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