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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with C-SPAN

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 25, 2001 5:30 PM EDT

Sunday, July 22, 2001 - 5:30 p.m. - EDT

(American Profile Interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN TV)

Lamb: Secretary Rumsfeld, why'd you come back to this building after 25 years?

Rumsfeld: Well, much to my surprise, I was asked, and it came as a real surprise. I had no intention at all of going back into government. I had spent some 25 years in public service and then I'd been out for 25 years. But the president and the vice president came to me and asked me to do this. The president has a desire to see that we engage in the kind of transformation that's appropriate for this century that we're just at the beginning of. And I liked the team he was putting together, and, much to my surprise, I said yes.

Lamb: Those 25 years you did what?

Rumsfeld: When I was out or in?

Lamb: Out, yes.

Rumsfeld: Out of government.

First I was chief executive officer of a pharmaceutical company, GD Searle, and then I was chief executive officer of General Instrument Corporation, an electronic company that has something to do with your industry. And I served on boards, I chaired a number of government commissions and participated in various defense-related governmental activities -- I avoided defense-related industries. But I chaired the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, I chaired a commission to look at the organization of the U.S. government with respect to outer space, and I served on the National Economic Commission, I was chairman of the congressional advisory board for the leadership in the House and Senate.

Lamb: What's the first thing that you notice that's different between running a business and running the Pentagon?

Rumsfeld: Well, in a business you are able to make a decision, put it in place -- talk to your board of directors, put it in place, and then see if it's a good decision. If it doesn't work you calibrate it. If it's just not going to work at all you could stop it. And if it works you can reinforce it and help it along.

In government the minute you think about doing something it leaks in the press, there's a congressional hearing about it, the critics all well up because change is so hard for everybody, and you then have to fight your way through that resistance to change. So it makes it very -- you have so many public audiences in government. It's everybody's business. In business you really can go about your business and succeed or fail. In government, every step of the way it's analyzed, discussed, debated. It's kind of like pulling the plant out of the [ground] and looking at the roots to see how well it's growing every 15 minutes. And it is a very, very different; government is.

Lamb: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I've read a lot of what you've had to say in the first six months. We've covered a lot of your hearings. I hear you keep saying, "This place is a mess."

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I've used that word -

Lamb: You haven't, but that's what you're saying, it seems.

Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, the truth is that the Department of Defense is a wonderful institution. It probably works as well or better as any governmental institution I have ever been associated with. The men and women in the armed forces are absolutely superb people. You go visit them and you just can't help but come away with the sense that here they are, all sizes and shapes and sexes from every part of the country, and there they are working together, putting their lives at risk so that the rest of us can live our lives, and it's a wonderful thing.

I have to agree, however, that the Department of Defense doesn't work very well. There are a great many things we need to improve internally. We certainly have to figure out a better way to work with the Congress. There is a level of distrust that has built up over the decades that is totally different than when I was here 25 years ago. And it's palpable; you can feel it.

The bill that authorizes the Defense Department's appropriations has gone from something like 55 pages when I was here; it's now over 900 pages. And it's just filled with requirements and rules and stipulations and prohibitions and things you must not do. So you cannot look at something and decide you want to do it without almost always going up and getting the approval of the Congress, which is totally unlike a business where there's degrees of delegation, from the shareholders to the board, the board to the chief executive, the chief executive down to lower levels. Here it's everybody's business, with respect to almost everything we do.

Lamb: What's the most broken that you think you can fix?

Rumsfeld: Well, certainly the financial systems are, by everyone's agreement, just terrible. The General Accounting Office, and anyone who's ever looked at them, agree that there are probably some $2 - $2.5 trillion of transactions that you cannot track. It doesn't mean the money isn't being spent properly. It means that you don't have the financial systems to be able to demonstrate that fact. We couldn't get a clean audit, if you will, although that's true of much of government.

Unfortunately, the financial systems seem to have been designed to report to Congress on the categories of the bill, as opposed to provide financial information so managers of the institution can know exactly what's taking place and make the kinds of day-to-day calibrations that will save the taxpayers money. In the aggregate, with the best intentions, we are not behaving in a way that's respectful of the taxpayers' dollars, and that's wrong. We've got a great many things we need to do in this department to provide for our national security and to get a range for the threats that are evolving; the so-called asymmetrical threats of terrorism and cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and cyber attacks. And there isn't enough money in the world to do that unless we behave in a way that is respectful of the taxpayers' dollars.

Lamb: How do you go about your job? What's your day like; when do you start?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's long. I generally get up about 5:00, and I'm generally in here about 6:30 in the morning. And I get briefed by the intelligence people and get caught up on what's taken place. I then have a series of staff meetings. And during these early months that I've been here, I've been here without practically any other Bush appointees from this administration. So it has been -- a big part of the job is to try to get people recruited and agree to come in government in an environment that's not terribly hospitable in terms of their financial lives or their personal lives, and then to try to get them confirmed if you can finally get them through the FBI process. So the people part of it becomes very important.

Second, it's a matter of dealing with all the things that are happening at any given moment; all the issues that are taking place with respect to Japan, the EP-3 incident with respect to China, the problems in Macedonia and Kosovo and Bosnia, a series of NATO meetings; I've had to go to Europe twice. I've spent an enormous amount of time on Capitol Hill. I mean, just last week the Defense Department had 16 separate hearings with over 38 witnesses up on Capitol Hill in one week.

Lamb: Is it true that you have 400 people devoted to legislative liaison?

Rumsfeld: I have not counted them personally, but I have been told that there are about 400 people who are involved full-time in legislative liaison; that is to say dealing with phone calls, letters, preparations, responses, all kinds of things. I've also been told we have 24,000 auditors, which is probably more shooters than we can field on any given day.

We have so many rules layered on top of rules that it is an enormous job just to keep up with all of the requirements that are imposed. We have to file over 905 reports to Congress a year. I don't know who reads them but I know we're killing a lot of trees.

Lamb: Are we the best military in the world?

Rumsfeld: Without question.

Lamb: If we're the best military in the world and we have these kind of problems, what are the rest of them like?

Rumsfeld: Well, governments are not known to be terribly efficient generally anywhere. And because of our arrangement of free political systems and free economic systems and a free press, we unquestionably have, I think, the best in the world. We know we do from a military standpoint, but in terms of our efficiency, I suspect we're also the best in the world.

Lamb: Why do we have to be the best in the world? Why do we have to be the leader? Why do we have to protect so many others?

Rumsfeld: Well, I suppose we don't. In other words, one could say that we'd rather have Country X or Country Y, Cuba or North Korea, or any number of other countries, be the leader in the world and sit back and say, well, let them worry about those things.

The problem with that is that it won't work. And the reason it won't work is because we live in a complicated world, a dangerous and untidy world with weapons of mass destruction proliferating across the globe, very powerful weapons. And we're at a moment in history where it falls to us to be the capability that stabilizes and contributes to peace in the world. And it isn't that we're protecting other people, we're protecting ourselves as well. And there isn't another nation that has no appetite for anyone else's land or anyone else's treasures on the face of the Earth that has the capability to do what we do, and that's to contribute to peace and stability.

If you think about it, the so-called globalization, or the extent to which we now trade and travel and communicate with and deal with other countries across the globe, is greater than at any time in our lifetimes, and it's increasing everyday. We are increasingly interconnected as people. And it happens that there are a handful of nations on Earth that believe in free political systems and free economic systems and don't have any desire to impose their will on anybody, and we're one of them. And the bulk of the rest are in Western Europe and then sprinkled in Northeast Asia and Latin America and a few other places. But that is not true of most countries in the world.

So you could say it's a burden; I don't think of it as a burden. It is in our interest that we have a peaceful world. Without that, we don't have an opportunity for people to be prosperous and to have opportunities and to be free to do that which they wish to do. If we're at war, if we're in an unstable situation, people don't have that privilege.

Lamb: How long, in your own head, do you think you want to stay here?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't have any idea. I've just been here a few months.

Lamb: Well, the reason I ask that, do you have a plan that you want to accomplish before you leave? Do you want to walk out and look back and say, I did these four things?

Rumsfeld: I would like very much, when I leave, to be able to look back and say that we've left this department and the armed forces better than we found it; that the circumstance of the men and women in the armed forces is better than we found it, and that it is appropriate to attract and retain the kinds of people we need to serve in the armed services. I'd like to be able to say that we have made a good start on the transformation so that the country will be able to deal with the kinds of threats and problems and offer the deterrent in the world that will contribute to that peace and stability that's so important to our everyday lives.

I'd like to be able to say that we've done the kinds of things that will enable us to be more secure against those asymmetrical threats, the evolving threats, because of the dangers they pose. And it isn't any one. It isn't just homeland defense or terrorism or cyber attack or ballistic missiles -- an awful lot of talk in the press about ballistic missiles because we've had this successful test recently, and there's been a good deal of Congressional debate, but cruise missiles, as well, are problems that are posed. I don't think we face an immediate threat to our major armies and navies and air forces. The Gulf War kind of suggested to people that that's not a wise thing to do; to compete with those forces. And we need them because it does offer a deterrent. But the kinds of threats that are more likely in the immediate future are the other ones that I've described.

Lamb: Those that are in this building and have to deal with you or even around town would probably like to know what Rumsfeld's Rules are.

Rumsfeld: [Laughs.]

Lamb: I suspect after six months people figured some of that out, but what would you want people to know about you, coming to your office, dealing with you, doing business with you? What are your own rules about how to do all this?

Rumsfeld: Well, "Rumsfeld's Rules" I started compiling when I was back in Congress in the 1960's, and they're mostly not my rules. They're mostly observations about mistakes I've made or I've seen other people make or ways that things can be done better. And it seems to me that it's useful to have some of those things written down because it tells the other people that work with me -- and they all have copies, they can take --

Lamb: How many are there?

Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I never bothered to count them. There are probably 50 or 60, but the last one is never have more than 10. [Laughs.]

Lamb: But what's your -- I mean, what are the things that you are most concerned about? I mean, if somebody sends you a memo and it's three pages, do you throw it back and say, give me a page?

Rumsfeld: I doubt that. I might hand it back but I certainly wouldn't throw it back.

Lamb: But do you want one-page memos? Do you want 15-minute meetings? I mean, what are the kind of things that -- you know, all secretaries --

Rumsfeld: Well, I use a stand-up desk.

Lamb: You never sit down?

Rumsfeld: Practically never, except when I'm with you.

Lamb: Why is that?

Rumsfeld: I don't know, I just have gotten in the habit of standing. I've done it for decades and --

Lamb: When people come to meet with you they stand?

Rumsfeld: When they're guests I sit down with them, but I stand a lot.

Lamb: But what does that do that if you sit down changes the whole dynamic?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's more relaxed. And there's so much to do in a day that if you start spending your time sitting down you don't get half as much done, it seems like to me.

Lamb: Do you want people to know that you're tough?

Rumsfeld: I don't really think about what I want people to know. I guess that -- you asked me about rules. One rule is, what you measure improves. That is to say you get what you inspect, not what you expect. And it seems to me that it's important to have metrics; it's important to ask people what are their priorities and how are they measuring progress towards those goals, and then are they achieving progress? So I like to have people know what their priorities are, I like to have them have ways that they're tracking against those priorities, and I ask people about them from time to time.

Lamb: Do you exercise every day?

Rumsfeld: I used to until I came in this job. I now am lucky if I can play squash on the weekends.

Lamb: What about your family? Are they here or are they in Chicago?

Rumsfeld: Well, my kids are all grown; they're in their 40's and 30's and have children, grandchildren; we have grandchildren. My wife came here, and she's here much of the time. She often goes to Chicago to see her mother and goes to New Mexico to see her grandchildren when I'm busy or out of the country.

Lamb: How many kids do you have and what do they do?

Rumsfeld: We have three children and five grandchildren. I have two daughters who are bringing their children up and a son who was in an Internet company and is now looking.

Lamb: We have, everyday, call-in shows. About 60 people in the United States call in and give their views on a regular basis, seven days a week. Let me just repeat some of the things, some harsh things they say about this town, this place and whatever. "When it comes to the Pentagon, all George Bush is doing is paying off his buddies in business." There's a cynicism in certain groups out there like that. What do you say to them? How do you tell them that --

Rumsfeld: Well, I must not be talking to the right people because I've never even heard that thought.

Lamb: I get a call like that every day.

Rumsfeld: Interesting. It's too bad because it's so -- it reflects a cynicism about government, which of course is just absolutely not true.

I left the government in 1977 as secretary of Defense and purposely avoided connecting with the Defense Department. I was asked to run a couple of major defense companies and I was asked to go on the boards. I declined, simply because I didn't want anyone to ever feel that if I was speaking out on a defense issue that I was representing some economic interest, which I never have, from a defense standpoint.

I suppose if you're doing something, someone's not going to like it. So if the president increases the budget a certain amount, someone will say it's too much and it's helping somebody, and if he doesn't increase it as much as somebody likes, they're going to complain about that. But the fact is it's absolutely untrue. There is no one doing anything here to benefit anyone other than the American people and people who care about peace and stability in this world.

Lamb: What about the revolving doors? A number of your secretaries in the services all came from industry.

Rumsfeld: They did.

Lamb: Again, the perception -- I know they're older, they probably won't go back to those industries, but, again, what do you tell the public that's cynical?

Rumsfeld: Well, I tell the public that the truth is that I selected them and recommended them to President Bush because they have knowledge and competence and success in business. And two of them, in fact, had been in defense companies. They've had to divest every single thing they own with respect to anything relating to an economic interest. They are enormously honorable people. Because they did come from defense companies, everyone in Washington and the press corps will be watching them carefully to see that they don't do anything that favors anyone that they every were connected with, and they will not. They have agreed to recuse themselves and not make decisions with respect to certain things.

I guess it's not surprising that some people worry about that. I personally think it's insulting to these very, very fine human beings who have given up an enormous amount of money to come into government and serve their country, who care about their country, who have done everything legal and proper, and it is wrong for people to feel that way. And I hope that that message can be carried out to people who just weren't quite aware of all they have had to go through to serve their country. These are three enormously talented people that are benefiting the American people.

Lamb: The other thing you hear from callers is about your anti-missile defense. There are people -- a lot of people call that are very much for it, but then there are a lot of people that are very much against it. What's the origin of the need for this? And how do you convince somebody that says, prove it; there's no proof that this is going to matter at all?

Rumsfeld: Well, the history of the world has been that for every offense there's been a defense and for every defense there's been an offense, and that nothing is static, and that each new weapon capability has tended to force others, who did not want to have their lives changed by someone imposing their will on them, to figure out a way that they can live in a world with those new capabilities. So with the advent of ballistic missiles -- and they have grown every year. The numbers of countries with ballistic missiles is growing and the total number of ballistic missiles is growing, of all ranges. And with the advent of weapons of mass destruction, the potential damage to a population center is millions and millions and millions of people dead.

Now, the question then comes, well, if ballistic missiles exist and if they can be launched from land or sea, and if they can be launched from a ship, and if they can kill millions of people, you have a choice. You can either say, well, I'd like to try to defend against them, or you can say, I will acquiesce and let whoever has that weapon blackmail and threaten me into doing whatever it is they want to do. So if Saddam Hussein had had a weapon of mass destruction, a ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon, demonstrated it for the world and then invaded Kuwait, the rest of the world, without ballistic missile defenses, would have known that their cities were at risk, and they could have said, well, fine, let Saddam Hussein have Kuwait. In fact, he can have all the Gulf states. In fact, he can have Saudi Arabia. Now, is that the kind of world we want to live in?

You have one other choice. You can either have defenses, you can acquiesce, or you can preempt. That is to say you can take your power, and when you think somebody might be developing those weapons, go in and take them out. Now, that is now a happy choice for a president or a country.

Someone says, well, what about nuclear retaliation? What about mutual assured destruction? Why doesn't that stop people from doing things? Well, first of all, it didn't stop the Korean War or the Vietnam War. It didn't stop Saddam Hussein from going into Kuwait. And then you will say, well, what if they used those weapons? And of course the problem there is Saddam Hussein is a dictator. He's a bloody dictator who is holding hostage his people. A president who watched Saddam Hussein use a weapon of mass destruction and then was advised by his advisors to go ahead and use nuclear weapons on Saddam Hussein would have to say to himself, do I really want to use a nuclear weapon, a weapon of mass destruction, in retaliation against that country when the bulk of those people are hostages to a dictator?

So it is a very rational thing to want to be able to develop a defense. A defense doesn't hurt anybody. It doesn't offend anybody. It shouldn't. The only person or country that should be bothered by a defensive system for ballistic missiles is a country that intends to use them to impose their will on their neighbors.

Lamb: From just watching I get the impression that almost every country that you deal with in Europe, or even in Asia -- there are a couple that don't, but they're sitting down and saying, we don't want this. Why would France not want to have an anti-ballistic missile system? What's at the heart of their opposition to this?

Rumsfeld: Well, if you look at the pattern of behavior over a period of decades, France is opposed to any number of things that other countries have desired.

Lamb: What about Germany?

Rumsfeld: The French have a modest nuclear force. A missile defense system, they might believe, would reduce the value of their nuclear force, conceivably. I don't know that, but --

Lamb: What about Germany?

Rumsfeld: The other thing that some countries worry about is that it costs money, and that's true. The problem with that argument is that war has cost an awful lot more than defenses.

Lamb: What about the Japanese?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Japanese are very interested in missile defense. They have a neighbor, a couple of neighbors that have a lot of ballistic missiles, and they've been interested in the subject and are discussing it.

Lamb: When will this issue, in your opinion, be decided?

Rumsfeld: A country that has a great interest in missile defense is Israel. Why? Well, because they've been bombarded by ballistic missiles. They know what it's like to have missiles coming into their country killing people. And they've developed, with us, an air ballistic missile defense system, which gives them a great deal of security that they otherwise wouldn't have.

Lamb: But when do you think this issue will be -- at least some kind of an overall decision made on the part of the administration and the Hill, that you'll get some sense of which way this is going to go?

Rumsfeld: Oh, sooner, not later.

Lamb: Meaning this year?

Rumsfeld: I wouldn't be surprised if we worried our way through it this year. We have a lot of tests coming up that would begin to bump up against the treaty, and we're going to be working with the Russians immediately ahead. The president meets with him next week, and I'll be meeting with my counterpart, the minister of defense of Russia; Secretary Colin Powell's going to be meeting with his counterpart. And we'll be carrying forward these discussions to figure out how we can get beyond that treaty which -- of course the treaty prevents you from having missile defense. So, clearly, it's not something that you can live with if you intend to have missile defense.

Lamb: The other thing that callers will call about -- and they're on both sides of this one; very strong on both sides -- whether or not this place should be restructured -- your quadrennial look at this place. And then other people are anti-everything you've done, and you know that. And even in this town you've gotten a lot of static from the Hill for what you've done.

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Lamb: Why do you think -- would you do that over again differently when you approach this thing?

Rumsfeld: Well, no, I think you have to recognize that change is very hard for people. It is. It's just difficult.

Lamb: Why?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know, but it is. It's comfortable, you know where you are, everything's set, and all of a sudden there's a new administration and the president says, I want to have a review of the defense policy and I want to make sure that we've rearranged ourselves after the Cold War so that we're appropriately focused for the post-Cold War period. And defense contractors start getting nervous and the people in the defense establishment start getting nervous because they can see where their track is and all of a sudden things might change; the ground might shift. And the Congress, they have people who care about the Defense Department and they've been here year after year after year and this is what they've created; this is what they've contributed to, is what we have.

So, if you want to change what people have, you have to expect that there is going to be some concern, and there is concern as you properly suggest. It doesn't surprise me a bit. And there isn't a way in the world that anyone could undertake a review of anything and not have people think, well, if he's reviewing it he might change something. And once that happens, then there's that kind of concern.

But we'll work through this. Most people who are interested in the national security care about it and want to do what's right. And when we come forward with the proposals, the additional proposals -- I've already made a number of proposals -- but some additional proposals, we'll just have to allow time for people to roll those around in their heads and get comfortable with them and then we'll work them through.

Lamb: How many of those decisions, whether it's the number of Navy ships or the Joint Strike Fighter or whatever, how many of those can you make alone?

Rumsfeld: Oh, you can't make any decisions alone in this town. I mean, it's the taxpayers' money in the last analysis. What I'll do is I'll continue this process and draw conclusions, and work with the military and the civilian leadership here, consult with the Congress, make recommendations to the president. The president then, in the budget for next year, will agree or disagree, and then it'll be sent to the Congress. Then the Congress will worry it through.

No, it's a long process. Of course, that's the way our founders fashioned this thing. The power's divided in town and everyone has a chance to chop on it, and we're much less likely to make mistakes that way.

Lamb: Your district that you were elected from, what? three terms --

Rumsfeld: Four terms I was elected.

Lamb: Four terms. It's where?

Rumsfeld: It's Cook County in Chicago, the northern part of Cook County, the northern part of the city and then the suburban area that ran from the Lake all the way out to Elgin, a big district.

Lamb: What did you learn from being a congressman that you use today in your job as secretary of Defense?

Rumsfeld: Well, the thing you learn about being in Congress -- first of all, it's an enormous responsibility to be the human link between a half a million people, or, in my case, in those days before one man, one vote, it was a million people for me, and their federal government. It's a big responsibility. And people can look at the Congress, the House and the Senate, and say, well, I don't like that person or I don't like this person, but the fact is every one of those people has done something. They have -- the people in their constituencies have sent them to Washington to represent them. And if you get to know those people and learn something about them, you learn a lot about America. And it's a wonderful thing to work with that mix of people from all over this great land of ours.

Lamb: Anybody in Congress today say to you -- now, I suppose they call you "Rummy" behind the scenes. But --

Rumsfeld: Into my face. That's been my nickname since I was a child. [Laughs.]

Lamb: You're going to want to close some military bases, and here's what's going to happen. You're going to announce the closing of the military base in XYZ district, mine, and I'm going to scream like bloody murder but you go ahead and close it. Anybody ever do that to you in this town?

Rumsfeld: Well now, you said I'm going to want to close military bases. The last thing I want to do is close military bases.

Lamb: Let me rephrase it. You're going to close military --

Rumsfeld: I have to close military bases. We have no choice. We're carrying something like 20 to 25 percent excess baggage. We don't need all of those bases. Now, any company that did that would go broke, the shareholders would sell, the board of directors would fire people. We simply must do it. But you're right. If they come up and propose that base A, B or C is closed, somebody's not going to like it and they're going to fuss, yell and get mad, and get angry at us.

Lamb: But do they ever wink at you and say, go ahead, just, you know, don't pay any attention to me; I'm going to have to scream in my district?

Rumsfeld: I've heard things like that.

Lamb: Is that fair to their constituents where, you know, they're playing both sides?

Rumsfeld: Well no, they're fighting. They say, look, I don't have any choice. My people want this base, therefore I'm going to have to oppose you. And they oppose you, straight on, nothing personal.

Lamb: Now, before you were a congressman, you were an aide.

Rumsfeld: I was.

Lamb: How many members did you work for?

Rumsfeld: I worked for two; one from Ohio, Dave Dennison, and one from Michigan, Bob Griffin, who later went on to the Senate and was majority leader.

Lamb: There's a difference between being a staff person and being a congressman. What did you learn from the staff job that now you can use here?

Rumsfeld: Well, as a staff person you learn that when you're a congressman it's a lot more difficult than being a staff person. But I think that you do get a wonderful perspective. I've had a great opportunity to look at the government of the United States from the Congress, to see it from the White House when I was chief of staff, to look at it from Brussels where I was ambassador to NATO, and to serve in a department, and then to go out in the private sector and look back at it. You end up triangulating and getting a much better sense about how all the pieces come together and how they work best.

Lamb: How many months were you here the first time?

Rumsfeld: I was -- towards the end of '75 when President Ford asked me to come in, and I guess it was in August or September, and then I left after President Carter was elected in the end of January of '77.

Lamb: But as you know, not very many people do that kind of thing 25 years later. What were you, like 43 or something like that, when you were in this job?

Rumsfeld: I was pretty young.

Lamb: You're 68 now.

Rumsfeld: Nine.

Lamb: Sixty-nine now.

Rumsfeld: Yeah. [Laughs]

Lamb: Twenty-five years. You talked earlier about tone. Is there a difference in the tone between when you were here before and when you're here now?

Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness, yes.

Lamb: What is it, and why is it?

Rumsfeld: Well, I came first here to Washington in 1957 when Eisenhower was president, and was a congressman when Kennedy and Johnson were president. And it was a much more civil atmosphere in this town. We worked together with people, we knew each other quite well, there was much less money involved, there was much less television and press involved. Today there's something about the dynamic in this city that is less civil and less friendly and less cooperative.

Lamb: Is that bad?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that it's for me to say. It is what it is.

Lamb: I mean, some people -- our callers say that's one of the problems of the town; it's too chummy, that you've got people that go along to get along, slap each other on the back and don't get the job done because they're all protecting each other.

Rumsfeld: It is not a chummy town. If your callers are telling you it's chummy, I would say that it used to be. [Laughs.]

Lamb: I think they think it used to be.

Give us some examples of how -- I mean, when you go up to testify, are they nastier to you up there?

Rumsfeld: Well, I've been fortunate. I know an awful lot of those folks and they're quite friendly except when you're closing a base or something like that. I mean, right now we're in the middle of one on the B-1 bomber. The B-1 bomber's not stealthy, it has not been an effective weapon for the United States, it's not viable today for conflict and combat. And we have, I guess, 93 B-1s; we want to take them down to 60. And they're spread out in five bases because of the old Cold War period.

We wanted things dispersed. And we want to bring them down to two bases and take the savings to modernize the remaining 60 B-1 bombers so that they'll be effective weapons. And my goodness, you'd think we'd ended the world for some folks because the opposition, of course, is very vocal and very concerned, and against that kind of a change. As far as I'm concerned, I think it's absolutely the appropriate thing to do, it's respectful of taxpayers' dollars, it's going to create a much greater warfighting capability and deterrent capability for the United States without a single additional taxpayers' dollar, and yet it causes a firestorm. But that's life.

Lamb: The last couple of questions.

You mentioned the media a couple of times. What's changed about the media and how do you deal with it? What's your own basic principles of dealing with the media?

Rumsfeld: Well, in a department as large as the defense establishment, we have so many audiences, the men and women in uniform, the hundreds of thousands of civilian employees, the contractor community, the people in the country who care about it, the people in the Congress who are so interested and knowledgeable about the defense establishment and have been working on it for so many years, the people who pay taxes. So the media is just an enormously valuable way for us to communicate with those multiple audiences so that they get a sense of what's happening.

And of course, television, particularly it's because -- and I will even go so far as to say particularly a program like this where you actually can sit and talk and discuss something in a little more depth than you can in a sound bite on a news program or in a newspaper article where what you say then gets put into a context that may be quite different from what you've said.

So it is helpful to us, but there is a lot more of it. In other words the total numbers of people involved in the media today in Washington compared to 25 years ago is - it must be many, many multiples.

Lamb: What about when you are in an era like this where almost every channel is devoted entirely to one story, the Gary Condit, Chandra Levy story. Is that better for you here when you're trying to get your message out or more difficult?

Rumsfeld: It's imbalanced. Let me put it that way. Who knows what I would do if I were a journalist? I have no idea; I've never been one. But it's important that these big issues that involve the defense establishment -- because it involves the peace in the world, it involves our relationships with our allies, it involves large sums of money, and everything we do, of course, is going to affect the capabilities of the country over the next 20, 30, 40 years, not today. Presidents don't benefit themselves in the defense establishment at all because the capabilities they worry about aren't going to be available for five, 10, 15, 20 years down the road.

But it's a big responsibility and I'm always grateful when the media is interested. I'm grateful even when they disagree with me because I think it contributes to a national public dialogue on these subjects, which is so important for the American people.

Lamb: I noticed a couple of years ago that you quoted Alexis de Tocqueville in something that you were writing about. It leads me to a question, kind of a final question. Do you have a philosopher? Do you have someone that you follow over time as you've been a student in your life? Is there somebody in particular that you read?

Rumsfeld: Well, you can't be in this business and not be attentive to people like Sun Tzu and Clausewitz. I read history, mostly American history, but the philosophy certainly goes back to the founders of this country, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, the statement by Thomas Jefferson, "Here, sir, the people govern," is true. The American people have a system that they can affect, a process that they can affect. And it is going to be as good as they want or as poor as they're willing to allow. And their attentiveness, it seems to me, is critically important. And it's particularly important in a world that moves so fast, where things happen fast and where weapons are powerful and where mistakes can be serious.

I don't know what we teach in our schools that helps sensitize people to that, but it is amazing how we seem to do pretty darn well as a country. If the pendulum starts to move too far, people get out of their chairs and they seem to do what is necessary to push that pendulum back where it belongs. And it's a great testimony to the founders of the country.

Lamb: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.