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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with UPI

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 12, 2002

Thursday, Aug. 29, 2002

(Interview with Pam Hess, United Press International)

Q: Okay, sir. Let me move you into the real reason why we're speaking today. Thanks.

I'm not writing this story. Someone back in the UPI headquarters is doing a story on Cheney and how his role has changed since September 11th, so the questions are along those lines.

What's the most valuable role Cheney plays for the President in White House activities on the war on terror?

Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't know that his role has changed since September 11th. It's hard for someone -- It's hard for anyone other than the President and the Vice President to know precisely what role he plays. They are together for meals alone, they have meetings, they talk about things. They're very close.

From my perspective it seems clear that they have an excellent relationship and that the Vice President plays the proper role of a Vice President of an advisor, as opposed to a decider, if you will. The President's the decisionmaker and the Vice President is the person who has the background and the ability to listen to arguments on all sides and meet with the President and talk to him as a friend and as an advisor, as opposed to someone that is reporting to him in a statutory responsibility of some kind.

Does that make sense?

Q: Yes, it does.

Sorry, I'm still typing. I'm a little slow.

Rumsfeld: You should tape record.

Q: I really could, but it's just kind of technically beyond me at the moment.

How would you describe your working relationship with the Vice President since September 11th? Are you meeting or consulting more often? What are you doing?

Rumsfeld: Gosh, I don't know. I have no idea what the frequency of my phone calls or meetings are with him. If you asked me cold, I would say I don't know that it's changed either.

We've known each other a long time, since 1969. I have a lot of respect for his judgment, as I know others do. We talk fairly frequently and we meet together in groups and alone on various subjects and I find him enormously helpful and a constructive contributor.

Q: I heard that you all had weekly lunches. Is that not true?

Rumsfeld: We do. I have a weekly lunch with George Tenet. I have a weekly lunch with Colin, Condy and the Vice President. I have a weekly meeting with the President. So there are lots of fairly regular intervals when that group of people connect. Outside of the NSC or Principals Committee meetings.

Q: Right.

September 11th, in what ways do you think it affected Cheney? Have you seen any change or development in his thinking about the U.S. role in world affairs since then? Have you seen any sharpening of his stances on any particular issue?

Rumsfeld: Of course September 11th changed the world's thinking about the nature of the security environment in the 21st Century. So I would have to say that certainly it has had an affect on everyone in the U.S. government one way or another, including the Vice President.

Q: There's no anecdotes or anything that spring to mind as being like a shift in your old friend?

Rumsfeld: Well, if the focus of the government has shifted from, for the sake of argument, a relatively evenly balanced focus on domestic, economic, social, foreign policy and defense issues prior to September 11th, towards a heavier weighting on the intelligence, foreign policy and national security areas, and homeland security area which I think is a fair assessment, clearly those are areas that the Vice President spent a lot of time on in his earlier life. He was very active on the Intelligence Committee in the Congress. He served as Secretary of Defense, of course, for President Bush 41. And has maintained an interest in the world and in foreign policy and national security matters.

So with the shift in the society and the shift in the world and the shift in the government, the areas that the Vice President has particular interest and background and expertise in have been moved kind of front and center as opposed to part of a whole.

Q: That seems like a fortuitous selection of a Vice President for Bush.

Rumsfeld: Indeed. Although I would have said it was fortuitous regardless of September 11th.

Q: One more for you.

You dealt with him extensively on September 11th, I guess there were lots of calls back and forth.

How would you, going back to that day, how would you describe his demeanor and reaction on September 11th and the days immediately following? Was he shaken, angry, determined, calm -- I can keep throwing out adjectives if you want.

Rumsfeld: I think the first word that leaps to my mind is steady.

Q: And I'm wondering too, sir -- and this is just my question to you, what ways have you seen September 11th change your way of thinking?

Rumsfeld: Gosh, Pam, I just don't know. I think back to -- I gave a speech on the problem of terrorism in 1983 which Brian can give you, to the U.S. Army Association, talking about what terrorism is and how it works, having been involved in the Middle East as envoy for President Reagan.

We were clearly focused on issues like intelligence and terrorism and homeland security and transformation prior to September 11th. We still are.

In terms of my time, I have to spend of course an enormous fraction of my time on the global war on terrorism. If I just think about today, I've been in meetings now, on the phone or in the secure video much of the day, and I'm trying to think if there was a single subject -- Yeah, there were promotion issues and a couple of other things. But for the most part what I have been reading and what I've been working on have been in one way or another related to the global war on terrorism. So in terms of a focus, one has to.

Monday and Tuesday when I was in California at Fort Irwin and Pendleton and aboard the Bonhomme Richard and the Constellation and a few other places, we talked about a full range of things but again, heavy emphasis on the global war on terrorism and transformation.

Q: With that, I will let you get back to it. When are you coming back to --

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