Listen closely. What you hear coming from the mouth of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is actually an “art form.” Call it “literary intelligence.”
The Pentagon’s top dog, it turns out, has an unsung gift for free verse, haiku and sonnets.
In fact, Mr. Rumsfeld’s poems are regularly embedded in the transcripts of his daily news briefings and interviews. All it took was for somebody to pull out the prose, which author Hart Seely has done in his amazing new book, “Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld” (The Free Press, $12.95).
“At times, Rumsfeld composes in jazzy, lyrical riffs that pulsate with the rhythm of his childhood on the streets of Chicago. From there, he’ll unfurl a Homeric tale cautioning us about the ways of bureaucracy,” Mr. Seely notes. “He’ll fire off rounds of irony with a Western cowboy’s sensibility, enough for some to call him ‘America’s poet lariat.’”
Either way, the poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld demands to be read aloud.
Let’s begin with “Needless to Say.”
Needless to say,
The president is correct.
Whatever it was he said.
— Feb. 28, 2003, Pentagon briefing
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know we don’t know.
— Feb. 12, 2002, Pentagon briefing
Field of Schemes
Is the playing field this wide?
Or is it that wide?
One can’t know that
Until one knows up above.
The president can’t know that
Until he knows what the possibilities are
And what the risks are
If the playing field’s this wide
As opposed to that wide.
— Jan. 23, 2002 interview with Reader’s Digest
She said she had a question
And she asked three.
I asked for an easy one
And she gave me a tough three.
— April 26, 2002, meeting with troops in Kyrgyszstan
How does it end?
— Feb. 8, 2003, briefing in Munich
“Bushenstein” is the scary title of a flash movie created by the Democratic National Committee and shown over the Internet.
The DNC says the purpose of the color animation, depicting President Bush as Dr. Frankenstein, is to show “just how dangerous a Bush-stacked Supreme Court is to American values.”
The movie begins, “A dark and stormy night … a madman at work … creating an unspeakable creature … who threatens our values.”
Who’s really green?
A congressman is blasting the Sierra Club for using the raging Arizona wildfires to attack efforts to strengthen federal forest-management policies.
Rob Smith, Southwest regional director of the Sierra Club, says the fires burning in Arizona “are further evidence that we should be focusing fuel-reduction efforts near communities, where homes and lives can be threatened. The Bush administration is instead pushing a plan through Congress that would focus limited funds on logging miles from communities.”
Rep. J. D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, calls the remarks “extremist rhetoric [that] is spectacularly unhelpful and disingenuous.”
“It plays politics with tragedy and uses fire victims as pawns. It should be noted that this attack comes from the same group that lectured us not to point fingers of blame last year in the wake of [Arizona wildfires].
“The Sierra Club is embracing a myth that we must approach forest management and fire prevention their way or no way.”
Sounding more “green” than the Sierra Club, Mr. Hayworth says Uncle Sam must instead commit the government “to protect not only the communities that find themselves in the path of these fires, but we also must protect the forestland and the ecosystems and wildlife and watersheds as well.”
“Cicero was asked which of Demosthenes’ speeches he most admired. Cicero’s answer was: ‘The longest.’ By the way, Demosthenes committed suicide. He carried some poison in a bracelet and he committed suicide. While I admire Demosthenes, I do not hope to follow his course in that regard.”
— Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, speaking on the Senate floor in recent days.
John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.