Yes, who better to ask about "government accountability" than war criminal Donald Rumsfeld? It seems the producers of Meet the Press and host David Gregory are doing their best to become a parody of Fox "News" - because that's certainly what they gave us this Sunday by allowing Rumsfeld on there for this softball interview.
We didn't get any questions about the invasion of Iraq, or torture, or whether Rumsfeld has any remorse about his actions during the Bush administration, but we were treated to him being asked about sexual assaults in the military, the IRS, Benghazi and of course he got plenty of time to hawk his new book.
Note to David Gregory: Here's how an interview with Donald Rumsfeld should be conducted if you want to call yourself a "journalist." -- Kai Ryssdal asks Rumsfeld some of the questions we've all wanted to ask.
UPDATE: Here's the transcript if you don't have the stomach for watching the clip.
GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.
MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld's Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.
GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And-- and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.
MR. RUMSFELD: And-- and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.
MR. RUMSFELD: But-- but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it-- it appears that-- that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But-- but it had-- people have simply got to not tolerate it.
GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military-- they talk about athletic teams and-- and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think-- there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of-- of the purpose of the armed forces. The-- but I don’t know the answer. I-- and I think they better-- they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.
GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld's Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis-- the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”
MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.
GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s-- proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and-- and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the-- that-- that experience that we went through.
GREGORY: But you saw that first hand, too…
MR. RUMSFELD: I did.
GREGORY: …for President Bush, and a reservoir of trust in your leadership, and that of the vice president’s, and that of the president, and of course with the Iraq war that trust eroded. Do you see parallels here or are you more sympathetic and less inclined to be as critical as some have been among Republicans of this administration having a culture of intimidation or cover up?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, clearly, you-- anyone looking at those jobs has to know they’re tough jobs. And-- and when you’ve got one big problem, it’s a big problem.
MR. RUMSFELD: When you’ve got two, it’s like ten. And when you have three, it’s a problem and it’s-- it’s a perfect storm in there right now and those jobs are very difficult. And-- and there are a lot of things that make them even more difficult.
GREGORY: But Former Vice President Cheney said that they’re lying in the administration. Do you think that’s overly harsh? Do you think we know that that’s true?
MR. RUMSFELD: Well, he may know something I don’t know. All I know is that the story has changed repeatedly on Benghazi. I don’t know anything about the AP story. It seems to me until we have some sense of that, we can’t even begin to make a judgment. But I think people looking at the changed stories on Benghazi and the way the talking points were altered are of a view that they were trying to support a narrative that in fact did not exist.
GREGORY: We’re going to take a break here. More from you on our web, incidentally. We’ll be back right after this.