“I was right and he was wrong.”
In many ways, that was the lesson of Donald Rumsfeld’s event at The Heritage Foundation called Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life, based on his new book of the same name.
Rumsfeld has collected these “rules,” which are mostly thoughts or ideas, since he was young. He kept them in a shoebox until then-President Gerald Ford asked to see them. So he had them typed up and gave copies to Ford and senior staff.
Many of the “rules” come from other people, including Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
Although Rumsfeld has faced a lot of criticism even from the right over his actions after 9/11 and leading up to the war in Iraq, he remains a traditional conservative.
Rumsfeld offered advice on everything from how to put together a board of directors to why the Law of the Sea Treaty is a bad idea (see: capitalism).
Some of his best insight was on the intersection of businessmen and the president’s cabinet. While the proportion of people in the cabinet who had private-sector experience was 70 to 80 percent under Ronald Reagan, it is only 22 percent under the current administration.
Part of that, he explains, is due to the difficulty of getting good people into office. Many of the presidential-appointed positions were vacant for much of his six years as secretary of defense due to the number of clearances the appointees required.
He acknowledged the frustration of a permanent bureacracy and referred to a Hyman Rickover quote: “If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”
Many of Rumsfeld’s arguments follow tried-and-true conservative logic, but that makes them no less relevant. “The advantage of the private sector is you do other things and you go out of business,” he said. “In government, it just goes on and on and on. It’s other people’s money and it can’t fail.”