Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Jerry Bowyer WORD FM
BOWYER: Welcome back to the program. I'm Jerry Bowyer your host, and you're listening to 101.5, WORD FM, W-O-R-D. We're honored to have as our guest this afternoon the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, Donald Rumsfeld. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, Jerry. I'm delighted to join you.
BOWYER: It's a pleasure to speak with you. I'm a great admirer. We're looking forward to learning from you this afternoon.
About a year ago I interviewed the Vice President, Dick Cheney. I asked him, given the arc of his career -- he started off working on a crew, electrical crew with the union and now he's Vice President. I said how did you get from Point A to where you've gotten? That's a long trip. He said mostly it's been mentors. I said, for example? He said, well, for example, Don Rumsfeld was a mentor that had a huge impact on his career.
I'm asking you the same question. I've read Midge Decker's biography. You've come a long way. How did you get from A to where you are now?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness gracious. You know, I've had so much good fortune in my life. I was a Navy pilot and loved doing that, then I knocked on doors and I got a job working for a congressman from Ohio. I'd never met a congressman in my life. I don't think he hired me because I was terribly skilled at legislative matters. I had been a wrestler in college and he had been a wrestler and he kind of liked that idea.
Then I was elected to Congress, and after that, President Nixon asked me to resign from Congress and go in the Executive Branch, then President Ford brought me into his White House. Mostly people have been asking me to do things. But I've worked with some truly wonderful people over the years and enjoyed the public sector and the private sector and just feel very fortunate.
BOWYER: It was Congress to Office of Economic Opportunity, right?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Exactly.
BOWYER: And you were reluctant?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I was. I didn't feel that I'd ever, really never run a large organization and I had voted against it because I had differences with the format of it, but I took it over, and we tried to reduce funding to some of the things that weren't working well and put more funding into things that were working well, and I think made a contribution.
BOWYER: Then from there it was over to something else that you weren't quite sure about which was basically the Price Control Board.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, actually it was the Economic Stabilization Program which had wages and prices and rent control, a lot of things. I didn't believe in it and George Schultz knew I didn't believe in it, and I said I'm the wrong person to do that. He said no, you're exactly the right person to do it because you don't believe in it. We managed to not do too much damage.
Then I went over and was Ambassador to NATO and enjoyed that thoroughly.
BOWYER: Then Chief of Staff.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Right, for President Ford.
BOWYER: Then Secretary of Defense.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes, sir.
BOWYER: If you look at these big -- and now Secretary of Defense again.
If you look at these big jobs you've had, well look at all the jobs, how many of them did you ask to get, versus being asked?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The only one I ever asked for as I think about it was when I ran for Congress and I asked the people of the congressional district to elect me. From then on, I guess I kind of just kept my head down, worked hard, and people tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to do different things.
BOWYER: Is that kind of the Rumsfeld leadership secret? Some people, sometimes people shy away from overly ambitious men, as opposed to guys who do the duty and do it well, and then they get asked to do something else.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It sure has worked for me. I never sought any of these positions. The fact that I'm back as Secretary of Defense is just amazing to me, that President George W. Bush asked me to do that, but I'm delighted to be here, it's an important time in our country's history and we're working with a fine group of people.
BOWYER: At age 74, if I'm correct.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Seventy-three, I think.
BOWYER: I didn't mean to age you another year.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Not at all, but I was born in 1932, so 73 years old. Amazing.
BOWYER: Most folks at 73 are playing with their grandchildren and just enjoying retirement.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughing].
BOWYER: And you're in, this is not a ceremonial job. You're in a job that involves heavy hours, a lot of stress. You get attacked a lot by political enemies of the President. There are some they really like going after, and you're one of them.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughing].
BOWYER: How do you deal with that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, fortunately I've got a wonderful family and my children are strong and my wife is just wonderful. We've been married 51 years now. We're convinced that what we're doing is the right thing to be doing, and we're doing it in an honorable way, and I'm blessed with good health. I get up at 5:00 in the morning and am in the office about 6:30 and end up home about 7:00 and work another couple of hours there. I don't feel put upon at all. I feel fortunate that I'm in a position to make a contribution to our country.
BOWYER: You mentioned that you were a wrestler.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughing].
BOWYER: I've really wondered -- A lot of great men were wrestlers, by the way. This is not an unusual preparation for leadership. But as I look at your career, and I hope you don't mind us talking this way, I'm interested in leadership and I do want to talk about Iraq and some of the other things going on, but I'm also addressing that young man or young woman who's in Pittsburgh listening right now who wants to some day sit in one of those big chairs and wants to be ready for it, so I hope you don't mind the direction we're going.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Not at all. But I think wrestling probably helped.
You're right, if you think about it. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln wrestled, and Teddy Roosevelt wrestled and boxed. There are a number of us broken down ex-wrestlers floating around.
BOWYER: Plato was a wrestler too.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Right.
BOWYER: It has something to do with endurance.
If I look at your career, you've been wrestling with bureaucracies practically the entire time you've been in executive posts.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's true, and even in the private sector I was Chief Executive of two Fortune 500 companies.
BOWYER: Searle Pharmaceutical, right?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's right.
BOWYER: And you were a wrestler there. They had gotten kind of bloated, kind of centralized. I mean before you restructured the Pentagon you restructure Searle.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, we did.
The Pentagon is making real progress. We've got a wonderful team of people, but transforming an institution this size is just an enormous task.
BOWYER: The bureaucracy fights back sometimes, doesn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure it does. And people think of the Department of Defense as one place where you lead by commanding and telling people what to do. In fact, it's very much like other organizations. You lead by persuasion, you lead by consent. You simply have to be willing to invest enough time with people that you can persuade them, and you learn from them and they learn from you, but you persuade them ultimately that the direction you want to go, or the direction you agree to go, after working with them, is the right direction, and that it's important for the country that that be the case, and it takes a lot of persuasion, a lot of work.
BOWYER: It's too big to lead -- I'm talking about the Defense Department -- that's too big to lead by command, isn't it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Absolutely. I mean the military system you can command, but in terms of turning a ship this size, it has to take some time and it has to take a lot of persuasion and a lot of effort with people, and ultimately you have to change a culture.
BOWYER: That, you can only do by example and persuasion.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed, and picking the right people, picking people who have that same orientation, people who are comfortable not doing what's been done before, people who are innovative and have some courage and boldness that they're willing to strike out in new directions.
If you seed the ground with enough people like that, eventually the great big battleship turns.
BOWYER: A lot of the battle that you've been involved with involves leaks from within the bureaucracy. Leaks about alleged torture or leaks about secret bases strewn around the world, and obviously we're not going to talk about, or you're not going to talk about secure matters and I wouldn't want you to, but I wonder to what degree, sort of bureaucracy of the intelligence services or of the defense, sort of fights against being transformed by leaking to the press. Are you concerned at all about that phenomenon?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure. We've arrived at a point in the United States, in the Department of Defense, we do very little that doesn't ultimately become public. I think that's just realistic. And that's, we can live with that. The things we do need to be classified or confidential for a period for the most part, operations, but we don't do covert things. We do things that need to be confidential for a period and then ultimately it's known because that's the Department of Defense. The other intelligence organizations do things that are covert, that are quite different.
But one of the things that does happen in this city is that the people who don't agree with the direction of a bureaucracy, tend to go to the contractors, the corporations, the Congress, the press, and try to alert people to the fact that they think that's the wrong direction. You just have to live with that and prove that you're right, and show the kind of stamina and staying power and persuasiveness that ultimately, you are able to move the institution in the direction that it has to go, to meet the 21st Century challenges.
BOWYER: Do you think that's the phenomenon that's led to a lot of the leaking recently in the attempt to sort of smear the administration or the department with torture or secret prisons or that sort of thing?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well of course the Department of Defense has no secret prisons at all. That involves other -- I think the allegations you're referring to don't refer to the Department of Defense.
BOWYER: They do not.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No. And we have no secret prisons at all. They're all public and people go down there. The International Committee of the Red Cross goes there. It's all very, very much open.
But I do think there are people who do leak things in an effort to try to have something be the way they want it instead of the way other people want it. What one has to do is to address it frontally and that's what we do.
We go out and talk to the press, and we go on your program, and we tell people what we believe is right, and have a national debate or dialogue or discussion on important subjects and let the chips fall where they may.
BOWYER: I've seen many of those press briefings and they seem to be very open.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughing].
BOWYER: We have exceeded the allotted time, but I do have a sheet here about American Supports You, so Mr. Secretary, I'm going to leave it to you whether you want to talk to my audience about America Supports You, or whether you may need to go on to your next interview and we'd respect that as well.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I would like to say a word about it. If people go to the web site AmericaSupportsYou.mil, they'll find a whole host of ideas where individuals and organizations and corporations and schools have done things to help the American armed forces, the men and women in uniform and their families.
There have been over 1.5 million people who have visited this web site and the messages of support for our troops and the various ways that people have been able to help children in Iraq, for example, or assist the families, has just been heartwarming.
So we have some truly magnificent people around the world serving our country courageously and professionally. I'm deeply grateful to them. I know the American people are deeply grateful. If they go to this web site they'll see a lot of ways they can demonstrate that support and that gratitude, and I hope they'll do so.
BOWYER: And the people of Pittsburgh are deeply supportive and thankful to those folks as well. AmericaSupportsYou.mil, that's pretty easy to remember. AmericaSupportsYou.mil.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for being so generous with your time.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Jerry, it was good to visit with you. Thank you so much.
BOWYER: A great pleasure. I'm Jerry Bowyer and you're listening to 101.5, W-O-R-D.