Earlier today Hugh Hewitt (full disclosure*, Hugh Hewitt is part of Salem Media Group which also owns RedState) interviewed former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This is the full audio of the interview:
Obviously, the main topic of discussion was the Trump administration. These are some highlights:
HH: So Secretary Rumsfeld, what do you make of the substance of his critique and the fact that he delivered it with the heads of government standing next to him among our NATO allies?
DR: He’s exactly on the mark. When I was ambassador, we were working with our allies to try to get them to make larger investments in their national security. And today, our allies are largely below 2% of GDP invested in defense. The United States has now dropped from 10% under Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, 10% of Gross Domestic Product going to defense. We’re down below 4%. So President Trump is exactly right. He’s talking to the right people. And there’s no question but that the deterrent effect if the NATO allies do what President Trump is suggesting, the deterrent would be vastly greater than it is today. And that’s the goal. It’s not to win a war. It’s to be prepared for a war so that it doesn’t occur.
HH: How about that he did with them standing right there, in which some people have said is undiplomatic and unnecessarily embarrassing to them?
DR: That’s utter nonsense. If you’re not going to stand up and look people in the eye and tell them the truth, these people are not youngsters. They know. They’re heads of government. They run those countries. And they need to hear it directly from each other, and certainly from the United States.
As I said yesterday, I think Trump hit the tone that needed to be hit in regards to NATO spending. Back in 1990, I was at a conference where the keynote speaker was a telegenic Tennessee senator and obvious man on the make, Al Gore. In the Q&A session the subject of NATO and security/stability in Europe came up and he said, “America will not pay to be a night light and comfort blanket to our allies.” I do wish Trump had renewed America’s commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty but the fact is unless Europe is willing to pay the freight for their own defense, it become harder and harder to make the case why America should do so.
Rumsfeld goes on to talk about the Syrian missile strike (he says he doesn’t know enough to have an opinion), the Koreas (tough problem), staffing lower levels at DoD (he doesn’t think Mattis is doing any worse than he did), and the Trump cabinet:
They have put together a superb national security team. In fact, if the most important thing a senior leader does is pick people, I give the Trump administration high marks. They picked an excellent Supreme Court nominee, and excellent, Trump picked a good vice president. They’ve got a cabinet that’s first rate, a national security team that’s excellent. I give him high marks.
Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia:
HH: I’m just curious. I have not yet seen, I agree, too. They attacked our election, just as the Chinese attacked the OPM under the last president, under the last watch. But I have not seen evidence, yet, of the so-called collusion. Have you?
DR: No, I don’t, these people who are, I suppose, they’re running around trying to compare what’s going on today to Watergate, which I think is ridiculous. I was in government during those years, and I, thus far, I haven’t seen any there there, so to speak. The press is, maybe they have a lot of folks want to run around and be the new Woodward’s and Bernstein’s, and they’re trying to create the kind of even that will put them on the map. But thus far, at least, I haven’t seen anything that would even begin to compare.
Media coverage of Trump:
HH: Last question for you, Mr. Secretary. Is the press tougher on Donald Trump than it was on you?
DR: Well, they certainly are not cutting him any slack at all. There’s practically nothing he does that 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 people aren’t willing to complain about it, fuss about it, critique it, argue about it. And it’s become kind of a way of life for some of those folks. I think anyone in those jobs, in a democracy, recognizes that what they do is subject to examination. And that’s fair enough. And I was comfortable with that. I think, however, that I’ve not seen it quite this where so many people seem to be almost rabid on the subject.
This strikes me as exactly right. Trump hatred has become such a lifestyle choice for most of his critics that they probably should have their own restroom. And he’s right about the critics, particularly those who have at certain times claimed to be conservative, being nearly rabid in their unreasoning hatred. On the positive side, as I said yesterday, it has created a legion of people who have never had a responsible job in their entire lives who feel qualified to explain classified information and military strategy and geopolitics to the rest of us, so there is that. I’ve reached the point where if I want to read actual coherent criticism of Trump I go to Think Progress or Huffington Post.
*And I have a signed, personalized photo from Rumsfeld thanking me for my milblogging during the Iraq war so I’m hardly an impartial observer.