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Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks at the Hudson Institute's Presentation of the James Doolittle Award

Presenter: Vice President Richard Cheney
May 13, 2003 12:50 PM EDT

Herbert London: It is my distinct pleasure to introduce the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney. (Applause.)

Cheney: Thank you. (Applause continues.) Thank you very much. (Applause continues.) Thank you. Well, thank you very much. And Herb, let me thank you for your kind comments.

It's a special privilege to be asked to come back today and to join all of you in the Hudson Institute in awarding the General Doolittle Award to a old friend of mine, the secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld. I was invited today, I thought, for a couple of reasons: partly because I'm a big fan of General Doolittle's; I think he's clearly one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century, been one of my heroes; perhaps because I was the award winner a few years ago, but I suppose most importantly because I know a little something about Secretary Rumsfeld.

And Herb mentioned that he'd plucked me from the Congress in 1969, made me a special assistant, and of course the rest is history. But it didn't go quite that smoothly. (Light laughter.)

The true story of that first meeting is that I flunked my first interview. And I'd arrived in Washington as a young congressional fellow. Then I spent a year on the Hill working on a Ph.D dissertation, and then I was to go back to the University of Wisconsin and teach.

But while I was here, I was supposed to negotiate an employment arrangement with any congressman of my choice. Don had spoken to the group of fellows that I was a part of, and I was impressed, so I made an important to go see him and went by his office a couple of days later for an appointment, an interview, in the hopes that I could sign on in his office as part of his staff. I was free help to the office. Didn't cost him a thing.

And the interview lasted about 15 minutes, and I found myself back out in the hallway. And it was clear that we hadn't hit it off. (Laughter.) He thought I was some kind of airhead academic, and I thought he was rather an arrogant young member of Congress. (Light laughter.)

Probably we were both right. (Laughter.)

But I went to work for another Congressman, a good friend of ours, Bill Steiger. And a couple of months later Don got nominated by President Nixon to be director of the Office of Economic Opportunity -- joined the administration. And so I sat down one night, unsolicited, and wrote a 12-page memo suggesting to him how he should handle himself in his confirmation hearings -- (light laughter) -- and giving him some sterling advice on what he ought to do with the department once he got confirmed. Gave the memo to my boss, Bill Steiger, who passed it on to the congressman. And I didn't hear anything more about it for several weeks.

And then finally the confirmation came, and Don got confirmed and sworn in. I got a phone call asking me to come down to OEO to join a transition team, which I did the next day, and walked into a big conference room, about 50 or 60 people gathered around. And Don came in, spoke to the group, left, and shortly after he'd left his secretary came in and said "Is there somebody here named Mr. Cheney?" I held up my hand, and she said, "Come with me." Took me back into his office there at OEO behind the conference room, and he was in there all by himself -- second day on the job. And he said, "You, you're congressional relations. Now get out of here." (Laughter.)

Now mind you -- (laughter continues) -- you know, he -- he didn't say, you know, "Sit down" -- (laughter) -- "have a cup of coffee" -- (laughter continues) -- "would you like to come to work for me?" He said, "You, you're congressional relations. Now get out of here." And that's how I was hired. Literally. And I went out and asked where congressional relations was, and was told, and went down the hallway and went to work. (Light laughter.) And that -- that was, of course, just before he developed his suave, smooth, warm, fuzzy -- (laughter) -- personality that we've all grown to love over the years. Henry Kissinger over here is laughing because he knows that that's an exactly true story. (Light laughter.) He's seen all those traits in our friend.

But I -- it was a tremendously important event for me. And the fact of the matter is, I like to joke about it. And Don Rumsfeld was probably the toughest boss I ever had. I worked for him two different periods of time, a total of about five years. And it had a huge impact on my life. It literally changed my whole career. And much of what I've been able to do since in the years since 1968 when I was first kicked out of his office when I flunked the first interview, but is directly due to the fact that he was willing to take a chance on me and (has) given me some tremendous opportunities over the years.

And I will always be grateful for his willingness to take a chance on an unknown quantity.

Of course, we're here today to recognize and honor his service, and certainly his record as a congressman, a Navy pilot, an ambassador to NATO, a White House chief of staff, secretary of Defense twice and distinguished career in business is in keeping with those values that are epitomized by the General Doolittle Award. General Doolittle was himself a true American original: A soldier, scientist, strategist, and apostle of air power and architect of American's airborne might. He won the Medal of Honor, of course, for that remarkable raid on Tokyo in April of 1942; commanded the 12th and later the 8th Air Forces in North Africa and Europe during the war. And the fact that the Hudson Institute has picked him to honor men of Doolittle's stamp, I think, says a great deal for the fact that Don Rumsfeld's been selected for this award today.

The events of November -- of September 11th, of 9/11, two years ago obviously have had a significant impact upon the course of American history. It's really been a watershed event. And it has had enormous consequences, based upon the key decision the president made, the leadership he's provided and the call that has been placed upon the United States military and the Department of Defense in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the global war on terror. And lest any of us think that the struggle is over with, all we have to do is contemplate last night's tragic events in Riyadh, where some 91 people were killed, at least seven of those Americans -- we don't have the full accounting yet.

Clearly, we are locked in the kind of struggle that will continue for a good many years, that calls upon the very best in the United States military. And I can't think of anybody better qualified to lead the Department of Defense, to respond to and work with the president of the United States, with our commander in chief, who set some very high standards in terms of what he wants during this period of time, than the man we honor today, the secretary of Defense. I don't think there's anyone more deserving of this award than my old boss and current colleague, the Honorable Don Rumsfeld.

Don, would you join us? (Applause.)

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

(Continued applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you.

Mr. Vice President, thank you. It wasn't like that! (Laughter.)

Rabbi Shemtov (ph), Herb London, Chairman Stern; my friends Henry Kissinger and Jim Schlesinger, and I guess Brent -- all are former recipients of this award. We thank you for your long and able and continuing service to this country. And ladies and gentlemen.

Think how fortunate we are to have Dick Cheney serving as vice president. (Applause.) A superb executive, a wise counselor; the vice president is a combination of both thinker and doer. His quiet contributions will be well and properly recorded, not in the front pages of newspapers, but in the history books that are yet to be written. I am sure glad I discovered him! (Laughter.)

And thank you, Herb, for -- to you and your associates for how you're carrying on the legacy of Herman Kahn and the work of this important institute. I did value my relationship with Herman, a remarkable man with brilliant ideas on so many subjects -- war, peace, trade, energy, transportation and, of course, the future. As I recall, at one of his -- oh, I guess it was a conference we attended. We attended so many conferences together over the -- in the '60s and the '70s -- I think it was an American Assembly or a Shimoto (sp) Conference in Japan -- how he regaled us with the possibility of a Ponte Vecchio going from the U.N. building across the river. And there wasn't any subject that he wouldn't tackle with enthusiasm, with relish, and a lively, engaging mind and that delightful good humor.

Now, the truth be told, I've been around so long that I also knew Jimmy Doolittle. (Light laughter.) I had several opportunities to visit with him. My recollection is it was out at Bohemian Grove, where he would attend periodically, and we'd pass and visit. He was always so interested. So I do thank you for this fine award which bears his distinguished name.

Like the Hudson Institute, General Doolittle helped to change the world. Indeed, many of the principles that we recognize as so important in the 21st century -- speed, jointness, flexibility, transformation, precision -- were in a sense pioneered by Jimmy Doolittle.

Take speed. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Doolittle shocked the world by retaliating against Tokyo, some 4,000 miles from Hawaii, in just four months. In 2001 the United States struck a terrorist regime in Afghanistan, nearly 7,000 miles from the World Trade Centers, less than a month after September 11th.

Take jointness. In a sense, the Doolittle raid was an early example of combined joint war fighting. Think about it. He led a team of Army pilots on that historic bombing mission, taking off from the deck of a Navy ship and landing in an allied nation. Today that same principle of combined joint operations guided General Tom Franks as a joint force of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists combined with British, Australia and Polish forces in unprecedented ways to liberate Baghdad in less than a month.

In this century the challenges we face are certainly different from his day. We're likely to face fewer large armies, navies and air forces, and instead more adversaries who hide in lawless, ungoverned areas and attack without warning, and attack in, for the most part, unconventional ways. So our challenge in not conventional, it's unconventional. And we're living in a new and a dangerous world, as the vice president suggested. We can live in this world, let there be no doubt about that. And we can live as free people.

Herman Kahn was many things: scientist, mathematician, economist, historian, futurist. But above all, he was an optimist. And I share his confidence in the future of our country.

So, members of the institute, I thank you for this fine award.

Mr. Vice President, I thank you for your kind words, your friendship, your good humor. And most of all, I thank you for your truly superb service and leadership to our country. We are fortunate that you are where you are, doing what you're doing, and with our truly outstanding president.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Now, I'm told that we can talk the vice president into answering some questions. (Laughter.) Is that right?

Cheney: I was told it was to be a joint appearance. (Laughter.) I hope you got authorization for this; I didn't. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Where's Herb? Isn't this right?

Are there microphones? We don't even need them in this room. Who has a question? I can't see because of the lights, but --

Q: Good afternoon.

Rumsfeld: Good. Sing out.

Q: Is it on? Can you hear me? Good afternoon. I'm Menno Kampoese (ph). I have a question for the secretary of defense. Can you please elaborate, because there's some confusion, about the return of General Garner to Washington and the arrival of Ambassador Bremer to Baghdad.

Rumsfeld: Sure. I'd be happy to.

I'm trying to think when it was, I think it was late last year, the president and the vice president, Secretary Powell and I talked and we asked General Garner to undertake a task of beginning to prepare the ground for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and the kinds of reconstruction and humanitarian activities that might be necessary in the event that there had to be a conflict, which we hoped would not be the case.

Jay Garner, God bless him, agreed to do that and left his business responsibilities, came into the Pentagon, began that work, did a superb job. And at the time he did it, we talked and agreed that he would not be able to stay at it for an extended period, and that he recognized that it made sense to have a senior civilian serve as the presidential envoy in that post at some point in the future.

He then, when the conflict ended, went to Kuwait -- in fact, I think before it was even over -- and began the process of getting ready to move into Iraq when the environment was sufficiently permissive. He has done a superb job; there is just no question about it. And this nonsense in the newspapers is unfortunate. It's unfair to him. It's unfair to the process. It is terribly confusing for the people in Iraq. This is an outstanding American who is doing a spectacular job for this country.

And I know that Ambassador Bremer, who the president selected for that civilian post, is a first-rate individual. I've known him. The vice president's known him. I know he used to work with Henry Kissinger years ago. And he will do a terrific job.

Jay Garner has agreed to stay on during a transition period and assist in that process. And for that, we are deeply grateful.

So they're both first-rate individuals. The articles suggesting that Jay is being replaced by somebody for some reason is just plain not true. This was part of the concept when we first began this process, and I'm personally deeply grateful to Jay and Jerry Bremer for undertaking this service to the country.

Now for the vice president. Who's ready? (Soft laughter.) There you go.

Q: Why did you fail the first interview? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: That's for me.

Cheney: Yeah, you better ask Rumsfeld that. (Laughter.)

He -- let me tell you what he told me. (Laughter.) The -- as I recall, what he was looking for was somebody with some practical experience who could help out in a congressional office. He had a requirement for a speechwriter. Now if you know Don Rumsfeld, throughout his career, he's always had a requirement for a speechwriter -- (laughter) -- because he has great difficulty keeping speechwriters. (Laughter.)

But I really -- (laughter continues) -- I went into the interview -- (chuckles) -- I went into the interview very much sort of focused on an academic career. I was there to do a dissertation, research on the Congress, et cetera, and on -- he heard about five minutes of this, and it was pretty clear that didn't really fit with his plans for the job he wanted to fill. So I probably would have rejected me, too. (Light laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Now the truth is -- (laughter) -- I had a big district. I had something like a million people. It was the -- it was before "one man, one vote." And it was, I think, the largest district in America.

And I had dropped out of law school, and I figured it would be nice to have a lawyer on my staff, so I hired a lawyer. Now that's the truth -- (light laughter) -- notwithstanding what he said. (Light laughter.)

Questions?

Q: I'm a German emergency doctor, Norbert Vollertsen, who lived in North Korea for one and a half year. The people in North Korea are starving and dying.

They are suffering under a dictatorship maybe even worse than Iraq. Is there any opportunity for the U.S. government to give assistance to those people?

Rumsfeld: (Pause, laughter.) The U.S. government has been giving assistance to those people. And you're quite right: The circumstance of the people in North Korea is a tragedy. The food is in short supply, the many people in North Korea have not received the kinds of nourishment that they need. And indeed, the North Korean military, if I'm not mistaken, recently lowered the height at which they would accept people in the military, because so many individuals have not grown because of lack of food early in their period. But the United States has been one of the large donors of food in North Korea.

I know that the People's Republic of China is giving something like a half a billion dollars a year to North Korea. I know that hard currency goes from Japan into North Korea. The problem isn't that they're not getting enough money from the outside world.

If you look at that peninsula, and you look at it at night from a satellite, the southern portion of the peninsula is just filled with lights and energy and activity, economic activity. And from the Demilitarized Zone north, there's practically not a light to be seen at night; some in Pyongyang, but it's a black, bleak picture. Why is that? They're roughly the same size. The South has a GDP -- I'm going to guess -- is probably 25, 35 times what it is in the North. Why? It's because of the system, it's because of the viciousness of that dictatorship. And it is a heartbreaking thing to think of the circumstance of the people in that country, but the solution for it, it seems to me, is to recognize that market systems are the ones that are producing the most for their people, and dictatorships and despotism don't.

Question, right here.

Q: Yes, the great scholar Bernard Lewis has said that one of the problems in the Arab world --

Rumsfeld: (Aside to Vice President Cheney.) It's for you.

Q: -- is that media are closed. (Picks up microphone.) The great Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis has said that one of the problems in terms of the Mideast and the Arab Islamic world is that the media are virtually closed there; they get nothing but government-controlled media. And in the bookstores, you'll find the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and "Mein Kampf." Do you have a strategy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East for opening up sources of information so they get the wider information base to deal with and more information about the West, as well?

Cheney: Well, I've talked to Bernard Lewis about that very subject. He is eloquent on it. I agree with him. I think one of our major problems in the past has been a lack of sort of open, honest flow of information for the people in that part of the world.

I think there is progress; that is to say, I think their technology, in part, is making available now, to at least elites throughout that part of the region, through satellite dishes and various and sundry kinds of access to various pieces of media, more information than was true in the past.

But we need to continue to work it very aggressively. We need a very active sort of public information campaign on what we're doing, on what our goals and objectives and purposes are there. We're trying to do some of that in Iraq now, and hopefully we'll be able to expand beyond that in the future and begin to deal with the publics in that part of the world based upon facts and honest, open flow of information.

London: Yes?

Q: I have a question -- thank you. Mr. Secretary, and Mr. Vice President, first of all, congratulations on your leadership. John Block from the Reagan days. But let me -- let me ask, the tragedy of this attack that just occurred last night or in recent hours, as tragic as it is, it's going to have serious ramifications, maybe good, maybe bad. I'd like for you to talk about the fallout from this internationally, because a lot of people were killed from other countries, too. How do you measure this thing?

Cheney: Well, Jack, I look at it -- several things that come immediately to mind. Clearly, the target in this particular case wasn't just Americans, it was Westerners, if you will, I think, based upon the people who were victims of the attack. We've seen this before. I think, clearly, the Americans were the prime target, if you will. New York and Washington on 9/11 confirm that. But we've seen these terror attacks in East Africa, we've seen them in Bali.

So I think the message to be taken from all of this is that this is a worldwide problem, a global problem that's aimed primarily at the West. But these al Qaeda terrorists have killed a large number of Muslims as well, too. And if you look at the people who were killed in East Africa and the innocent life that was taken there, some 12 Americans, I believe, but a couple of hundred local citizens. So this is a conflict we've got to deal with on a worldwide basis.

It should reinforce the willingness of other governments to cooperate with the United States in the intelligence area, in the area of law enforcement, in terms of going after the financial networks and organizations that provide support for organizations like al Qaeda. We should lead us to redouble our efforts, if you will, to organize on an international basis to take down the force.

The other point that needs to be made here as well, too, is to recognize the fact that the only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it. (Applause.) There's no treaty can solve this problem. There's no peace agreement, no policy of containment or deterrence that works to deal with this threat. We have to go find the terrorists. And we do everything we can here at home and around the world to create hard targets so we're difficult to get at, but in the final analysis the only sure way to security and stability and protection of our people and those of our friends and allies is to go eliminate the terrorists before they can launch any more attacks. And this president is absolutely bound and determined to do that.

(Applause.)

London: Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I hate to bring the Cheney-Rumsfeld routine to an end. It's extraordinary.

I want to thank the members of the Hudson Institute for making this event possible. And certainly I want to thank all of you for coming this afternoon. Next year we're going to have another Doolittle dinner. I'd like you all to join us again.

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