John Brown's Reviews > Known and Unknown: A Memoir

Known and Unknown by Donald Rumsfeld
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Jan 24, 12


I just finished Known and Unknown, a fat memoir by Donald Rumsfeld, and enjoyed every page. Rumsfeld served as the Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush. But Rumsfeld’s service didn’t start there. He was a Navy pilot, an assistant to a congressman during the Eisenhower days, and, in the early 60′s, a four-term congressman from Illinois. He held various positions in the Nixon White House in the late 60′s and early 70′s, including ambassador to NATO. He was Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense when Ford took over from Nixon. Reagan tapped him to be a special envoy to both the Middle East after the Beirut bombing and to the Law of the Sea treaty discussions. He was the president of Searle, a pharmaceutical, as well as General Instrument, the company that pioneered HDTV. Only after all that, did George W. Bush bring him on as Secretary of Defense.

When writing novels, I try to create characters worth knowing, either because of their interesting personality or skills or because of the events they take part in. Donald Rumsfeld is just such a character, except he’s no fiction.

In his memoir he shares insider information on everything from Watergate to 9/11 to the war in Iraq. What emerges is a fascinating look into many of the most important events in the last forty years. You’ll get insight into some of the issues experienced in various White House administrations and see what really was going on with waterboarding, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, hurricane Katrina and many other of the hot button issues in the Bush years. There are some laugh out loud moments where his understated humor shines through. There are also parts where he reveals some of his differences with others that worked with him in the various administrations, including issues with Nelson Rockerfeller, Colin Powell and Andy Card. But in everything he writes he’s fair and restrained and attempts to present the facts accurately. This is no attempt to settle scores. Just a wonderful read.

If you are interested in politics at all, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Moreover, I think you’ll come out a little wiser, maybe a little better person, for having spent a few hours with Donald Rumsfeld.
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