September 29, 2002
Takes One to Know One

Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has emerged as the tough, bluff truth-teller of the Bush administration, no doubt drawing his eminence from the general flatness of the terrain.

He has not always been seen in quite this light.

On November 20, 1972, our diamond in the rough was a rising young man in the Nixon White House. The president, recently reelected despite that second-rate burglary at the Watergate, was awaitiing inauguration.

"P" in what follows is the President Nixon. "E" is John Erhlichman, one of Nixon's two top aides. The other, chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, was the author of the diaries from which this excerpt comes:

"It was a long, full day, covered some pretty good ground, got a few things established, and no major problems except apparently Rumsfeld, who had his meeting with the P after a pre-meeting with E, where he agreed that he should go on out to Illiniois and run for the Senate, but then when he got in the meeting with the P, he said no, that just wouldn't do, that he had to have an Administration job for a year, which was a complete shock to the P and E, and typical Rumsfeld, rather slimy maneuver."

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Haldeman, when the chief of staff called you slimy you could stand just a little bit taller. The man knew what he was talking about.

(Just so you'll know I'm not Stephen Ambrose, that business at the beginning about drawing eminence from flatness? Well, I stole it. Pitt the Elder or somebody said it first, and I didn't have time to look up who because The Sopranos is on in less than an hour and I haven't eaten yet. Okay?)

Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 29, 2002 08:11 PM
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