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Radio Interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the Sean Hannity Show

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 24, 2006
MR. HANNITY: And as we roll on -- "Sean Hannity Show." We are at what is called White House Talk Radio Day, and we've got the best election coverage available on your radio dial. The vice president, Dick Cheney, will be up later, also Secretary Rice, Karl Rove, Tony Snow and Dan Bartlett.

But first is an old friend of ours on this program, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.

How are you, my friend?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm terrific. Good to see you, Sean.

MR. HANNITY: You know what? It's good to see you.

You know, I got to be honest; this always comes up every time I'm with you. It's like there's always somebody after you.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: Do you -- what would life be like if you ever woke up and somebody didn't -- you know, be attacking you in the media?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. You know, I think goes with the territory. Anyone who serves as secretary of Defense in a war faces that microscopic viewing constantly. And you learn to live with it. I've pretty much stopped reading the newspapers. (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: How long ago was that?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Some time back.

MR. HANNITY: I guess we're all doing something right, because -- you should hear. They say a lot of nice things about me, too. (Laughs.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: But not quite as bad as what you've had to go through.

A lot of debate has now emerged over the phrase "stay the course" and what that actually means. "Well, the president is backing away from staying the course." He's not backing away from staying the course.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I suppose the concern was that it gave opponents a chance to say, "Well, he's not willing to make adjustments." And of course, just the opposite is true.

The old saying is that no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. Why? Because the enemy has a brain. So our battlefield commanders have been making adjustments continuously as the situation has evolved, as the nature of the enemy, the mix of the enemy has changed from time to time. And they're doing a very good job out there -- General Casey, General Abizaid.

I think that they probably just said that what they wanted the correct impression to be is that, yes, we see what the adjustments need to be; we're making those adjustments. And to the extent staying the course left the opposite impression, why, we wanted people to fully understand what was actually the case.

MR. HANNITY: How many days has the new government been in effect -- in place?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Less than a baseball season.

MR. HANNITY: Yeah, 146 or something like that. (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Because – we’re so impatient, you know, as a people.

MR. HANNITY: It's a big part of it, isn't it?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Impatience is a good thing in the sense that it makes people want to get things done. On the other hand, it can be -- it can lead you to wrong decisions because if there's any -- think of the Cold War. That took patience. That took persistence. That took successive administrations, both political parties --

MR. HANNITY: And Ronald Reagan.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet. Harry Truman, as well.

MR. HANNITY: Absolutely.

But if you look at -- once you combine politics to a war, it's not the best situation for the soldiers on the ground. I don't think it's -- you know, if the president -- what has really offended me in the last couple of years more than anything else, regardless of the war -- you can have your disagreement on the war, honest disagreement -- honest disagreement on the way it's been handled. Fine. I don't care. But when you call the commander in chief a liar, when you question his motives, when you're accusing him of breaking the law without any evidence, when prominent senators call our troops terrorists of women and children in the dark of night -- there's a line that's been crossed politically in this war. How hard has that been? How detrimental has that been?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's hard. It is -- it makes it difficult when people hear those things. And yet, if you go back in history -- think of the Civil War, think of the things that were said about Abraham Lincoln. Go back to World War II. I was alive. I remember. I remember the things that were said about Franklin Roosevelt.

The difference is that this is the 21st century. We're dealing with a whole new media -- with bloggers and television and 24-hour talk radio, and everything just gets -- a barrage of it. And it can be disorienting to people.

But the American people have a good center of gravity. I think we're going to go through this and people will absorb it, and they'll reject those things that prove to be wrong and unfair.

MR. HANNITY: How is the insurgency now, as you see it, on the ground in Iraq?

SEC. RUMSFELD: It's tough right now. And they see that they -- that there's a new constitution. They see that there's a new government. They see that the reconciliation process is under way, and they have a -- their goal is to prevail. And they see that they may not prevail -- the insurgents and the terrorists. And so they're going to make a major effort to prevail.

I think of what it is -- it's a goldmine for them. With that oil and with that water, to turn Iraq into a terrorist training ground and destabilize that part of the world, the consequences are so dire for that part of the world and for the United States and for free people.

MR. HANNITY: Do you see Iran, do you see Hezbollah, do you see -- where do you see the terrorists coming in from? Do you see a lot of al Qaeda coming in?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Still getting people coming in from all the neighboring countries, for the most part -- certainly Syria and Iran. But al Qaeda is still there and the Ba'athists are still active. The problem has migrated over to sectarian violence now, in some cases stimulated by al Qaeda, and trying to get the Shi'a and the Sunni --

MR. HANNITY: (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: Exactly. They want to see a civil war. And they haven't been able to pull it off yet, but they're trying.

MR. HANNITY: What is the situation in, like -- we've got an election two weeks from today, Mr. Secretary.

And if you're just joining us, Secretary Rumsfeld is with us.

We've got a very important midterm election. What does it mean, from your perspective as secretary of Defense? I know you don't want to get to political.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I can’t. The president has asked me not to.

MR. HANNITY: He told you not to? He told you you were coming out here to see Hannity and he said --

SEC. RUMSFELD: He said, "Don't be political. Say hello to Sean, but don't be political." (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: Oh, all right.

Well, I'm going to ask him. I'm going to be with him in a week, so I'll ask him a few political questions.

But if you --

SEC. RUMSFELD: The one thing I'll say about the election is I wish it were over. (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: You want it to end.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I just see -- the only thing worse would be to have it go on longer. I think that's -- it is a difficult environment. It's so partisan. It's terribly partisan.

MR. HANNITY: It is partisan.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah.

MR. HANNITY: But from your perspective, in terms of the outcome of the election, are you concerned about --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not going to get into it.

MR. HANNITY: Not at all. Want to talk about CNN?

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)

MR. HANNITY: I’ll ask you that question.

SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, when I saw the -- I haven't seen the clip, but I saw the story about it. And it reminded me of that CNN person -- I've forgotten his name -- who was in Baghdad and --

MR. HANNITY: Peter Arnett.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I don't think so. And he left Baghdad and he announced to the world that he had been there and they did not run things that were negative about Saddam Hussein --

MR. HANNITY: Bernie Shaw.

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, not Bernie Shaw.

MR. HANNITY: No? Strike two. All right. (Laughs.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: This man said they did not run things that were negative about the Saddam Hussein regime because they would have been asked to leave. And he was an administrator of some kind.

MR. HANNITY: (Off mike.)

SEC. RUMSFELD: He was in charge of the station or something --

MR. HANNITY: Yes.

SEC. RUMSFELD: -- the network in that country.

MR. HANNITY: Right.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Now think of that. Think of that! He stood up and admitted that they had been biasing the news that the people of the world were getting on CNN.

And that was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about this --

MR. HANNITY: This instance brought back the memories.

Know one of the most amazing things? First of all, I was at Walter Reed and Bethesda, and I found out something very -- that the public doesn't know about you, is that you often go over there without cameras, without microphones, without the press. As a matter of fact, a couple guys told me you were over there frequently. That's true, isn't it?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it is. My wife and I -- she goes with me, because she's strong; she can help, because it's hard -- we were there a week ago Saturday, just before the Air Force Memorial was dedicated here in Washington, D.C. And it was at Bethesda. And there was a Marine flat on his back with a tube in his nose and multiple wounds. And he looked up and he said, "If the American people will just give us enough time, we can do this. We're winning."

And I thought, think of that: Here's a Marine, wounds all over him, tube in his nose, and he's worried about the American people. It tells you where the center of gravity of this war is. It's not in Iraq. We've never lost a battle in Iraq. We can't lose, militarily, anything in Iraq. We can only lose if the American people lose heart.

MR. HANNITY: Why is there a disconnect with the American people, polling, perception, media? I'll give you a quick example, because I have the great honor of either interviewing, meeting with a lot of troops, a lot of their families. I haven't met one, yet, Cindy Sheehan notwithstanding, who’s families, whose guys who have been there come back here and say, "The media doesn't tell the story; this is inaccurate, the way we're being portrayed."

Look at the re-enlistment rate that -- I'm sure you know the numbers better than I do. But these guys all say they're not getting the truth out here.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. The retention rate is higher for the people who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan than it is for the general population.

MR. HANNITY: So how is this -- how does this disconnect exist? What happened?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I can't speak for the media, but I mean, the truth is that the -- everywhere I go with the troops around the world -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa -- invariably they will ask me, why is the impression in the United States so notably different from what they see? Why is the general impression of what's taking place so different? And it's because of the media. They decide to do that.

Now, that's understandable. I suppose that you can accept that. The fortunate thing is, I think the American understand that. There's 145,000 -- 147,000 of those folks over there sending e-mails home to their families telling them what they see in their slice of the world.

MR. HANNITY: So -- war changed in any -- just talking earlier -- we're 140-some-odd days into this new government. Maybe we've become just -- we believe that we ought to have instantaneous results all the time. In a sense, have we sort of -- have our expectations been out of line in terms of -- maybe the American people were expecting that this would be quick and easy and painless? Is that part of what the problem is?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We call it a war. And we think of a war as when big armies, navies, and air forces compete with each other and you sink a battleship or you conquer an island, and you win. And then there's a signing ceremony and it's over.

This is much more like the Cold War. This is more -- it's longer; it's tougher; there aren't going to be major, big battles. It's going to take perseverance. It's going to take a recognition of the dire consequences, were we to lose or toss in the towel. It's going to take a recognition of the importance of what we're doing in terms of protecting the American people.

And that just takes time. The American people did it for 50 years in the Cold War -- not a doubt in my mind but that we can do it now.

MR. HANNITY: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, you're a great American. And I know that the liberals like to take their shots at you. We love having you on this program.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Thank you.

MR. HANNITY: You've got a backbone of steel. Remind me never to get you mad, either. I've seen you in these interviews.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) Thank you.

MR. HANNITY: Good to see you.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Good to be with you.

MR. HANNITY: Appreciate it. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld on the "Sean Hannity Show," appreciate you being here.