Steve Ralls

Known Unknowns

Filed By Steve Ralls | September 10, 2007 7:02 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, military, Military Readiness Enhancement Act, Rumsfeld, Steve Ralls

It is only slightly shorter than War & Peace, but oh so much more entertaining. It is, of course, GQ's exclusive interview with Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense. Rummy, who was said to set the hearts of women of a certain age aflutter, pontificates in his signature style about everything from mules (he gave his wife one), to President Bush ("um, no," he responded when asked if he misses him), Dick Cheney (who he still sees regularly) and two mysterious "studly" pilots who fly him around the world.

But what might be most interesting is his non-answer to questions about social issues, including the LGBT community.

After the jump, let's see if Mary Cheney has a little more influence in the GOP than, perhaps, we originally gave her credit for.

The exchange comes on page thirteen of the GQ interview, and Rumsfeld's stunning lack of response might just say something more than he intended.

Q: How does Donald Rumsfeld feel about gay marriage, abortion, etc.?

A: "Um, I'm not gonna get into it."

Q: But why?

A: "The administration has positions on these things, and if you're part of the administration, you're supportive of the administration."

Q: Yeah, but you're not anymore.

A: "I know. But it's just not the way I am."

Sometimes, as those of us in the PR world can attest to, a non-answer can reveal even more than a direct answer. And what a discerning eye can find here is a hint (and a strong one, at that) that perhaps the former Defense Secretary isn't all that opposed to LGBT Americans marrying . . . adopting . . . or serving in the military. In fact, it seems like Rumsfeld might be cut from the same cloth as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has also been said to be pro-gay, pro-choice and socially more liberal than her boss.

Could it be that, in fact, the Bush Administration has (or has had) a few closeted gay rights supporters in its hierarchy? And if so, what can Secretary Rumsfeld do for the LGBT community? Perhaps a lot more than we might think.

While it's true, and evident from his remarks to GQ, that Rumsfeld will not speak out in favor of LGBT rights while the Bush Administration is still in office, he could still be a very powerful force for changing at least one policy - the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gay troops - once the White House is safely in another person's hands.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to see Rumsfeld follow in the footsteps of retired General John Shalikashvili, former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen and other military leaders by calling for an end to the ban? And, if even his support comes in 2009, it could still be enormously helpful. That is likely to be when Congress really ramps up its look at the law, and when passage of repeal legislation may quickly become a reality.

Of course, we can't say for sure that Rumsfeld will join the ranks of those calling for open service. After all, he once famously told the world that, "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

I'd rather have a known unknown, however, when it comes to Rumsfeld's support for our community, than a known known of no support at all. And in the end, maybe there are, indeed, "things we don't know we don't know" about some inside the Bush White House.


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That's fascinating, Steve. I never would have caught that clip from the interview. By page 8 of a Rumsfeld interview I think I'd have glazed over... *laughs*

I think you're right - that non-answer speaks volumes more than an answer would have. Now if he'd just pick up his courage and realize he's not part of the administration anymore and can say what he'd like. Hell, he could start with "Maybe I was a little off on this whole Iraq thing..."

Yeah bil, like that'd happen.

I read the article this morning and missed that bit, but it doesn't really surprise me. Rummy is the consumate company man who will keep his boss's confidence, but he's also a pragmatic businessman who knows where attitudes are headed, and knows that bans like DADT cut off access to some of the 'Best and Brightest', who are desperately needed in the military.

If he were in private industry, I imagine that he'd be pushing for partner benefits, but since he was part of a Republican administration, he had to dance with those who brought him back.

I wouldn't be surprised if his views re: gays are radically opposed to the ones of the administration(s) he served. What'll be interesting is if he voices those views after (if) Dubya passes the Presidency to his successor.