Attention, Donald Rumsfeld: Barack Obama Has Been President for 4 Years

The former defense secretary says he prefers Mitt Romney because the Republican has more executive experience. Did he miss the top line on Obama's resume?


rumsfeld full reuters.jpg
Reuters
Appearing on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Donald Rumsfeld made two comments of note about President Obama and the upcoming election.

HUGH HEWITT: You've been involved in government for a long time, Mr. Secretary. Is President Obama the weakest president of your lifetime?

DONALD RUMSFELD: He may very well be. I suppose the other one that stands out is President Jimmy Carter as a person who had a somewhat different attitude about America and its role in the world, and felt that we needed to kind of be in decline and withdrawal, and not contribute to the peace and stability that exists in the world.

What's striking here is the emphasis on the alleged attitudes and feelings of Carter and Obama. It would be easy enough to cite actions that they took or policies that they implemented, and to say, "This hastened America's decline," or "That did not contribute to peace or stability." Instead Rumsfeld plays armchair psychologist, guessing at inner thoughts that none of us can know, and that contradict the avowed motivations of the two men he is discussing.

Note too that Rumsfeld served under a president on whose watch Al Qaeda successfully attacked us, and who launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And here he is complaining that the Obama Administration's policies "do not contribute to the peace and stability that exists in the world." Is Rumsfeld suggesting that he was prioritizing "peace and stability" as defense secretary?

But it's actually this second exchange that most seriously calls into question Rumsfeld's analysis.

HUGH HEWITT: And a last question, what do you make of Mitt Romney's qualifications to be president?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I must say, I do feel that a person who's been in an executive position has an advantage. A lot of legislators run for the presidency and for governor positions, and I think someone who has that background of having to be an executive would come into that office with a head start. I would add that I think that it is, I'm told, I've read articles, I assume they're correct, to the effect that today in the White House, we have the smallest percentage of people who have any background in business whatsoever. And I think that people who think that this country is about government are wrong.

I think this country is about the private sector. It's about risk taking and investment and initiative, and industriousness and the values that built this country. And I think someone who's been in business, as Governor Romney has, brings to it that nice mixture of executive experience and government as well as a business background, which is a stark contrast to a community organizer, and a person who served in the United States Senate for about fifteen minutes. (emphasis added)
Yes, aside from the four years Obama has spent as commander in chief and head of the executive branch, what possible experience does he have that would prepare him to be commander in chief and head of the executive branch? Rumsfeld's analysis would make a lot of sense if it were 2008, and Romney was running against Senator Obama. In 2012, if you think the person with more experience relevant to the presidency should win the election, it's bizarre to conclude that the candidate who has never actually been president is that more experienced person.
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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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