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Donald Rumsfeld :
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New translation, the Magna Carta

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American businessman and politician, his last government post being U.S. Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush from 2001-2006.





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  • The Unknown

    Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me,
    Because 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.
    [12 February 2002, Department of Defense news briefing]

  • [Osama Bin Laden is] either alive and well or alive and not too well or not alive.

  • I am not going to give you a number for it because it’s not my business to do intelligent work.
    [When asked to estimate the number of Iraqi insurgents while testifying before Congress]

  • I believe what I said yesterday. I don’t know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said.

  • If I said yes, that would then suggest that that might be the only place where it might be done which would not be accurate, necessarily accurate. It might also not be inaccurate, but I’m disinclined to mislead anyone.

  • There’s another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist.

  • I don’t do quagmires.

  • I don’t do diplomacy.

  • I don’t do foreign policy.

  • I don’t do predictions.

  • I don’t do numbers.

  • I don’t do book reviews.

  • Visit with your predecessors from previous administrations. They know the ropes and can help you see around some corners. Try to make original mistakes, rather than needlessly repeating theirs.

  • Don’t begin to think you’re the president. You’re not. The Constitution provides for only one.

  • The price of being close to the president is delivering bad news. You fail him if you don’t tell him the truth. Others won’t do it.

  • You and the White House staff must be and be seen to be above suspicion. Set the right example.

  • Don’t speak ill of your predecessors or successors. You didn’t walk in their shoes.

  • Don’t say “the White House wants.” Buildings can’t want.

  • As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.

  • I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.

  • Don’t begin to think you’re the president. You’re not. The Constitution provides for only one.

  • Learn to say “I don’t know.” If used when appropriate, it will be often.

  • If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

  • With the press there is no “off the record.”

  • Napoleon was asked, “Who do you consider to be the greatest generals?” He responded, “The victors.”

  • Remember: A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s.


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