“Obviously, I get to speak first since I was the best secretary of defense,” joked former Vice President Dick Cheney, while introducing Donald Rumsfeld at a book party last night.
The book was “Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War and Life” out in mid-May. The evening’s humor, coming from two dour government veterans, was unexpected.
“You’re a hell of a lot better writer than you used to be,” said Cheney at the Georgetown home of Susan and Michael Pillsbury, a Department of Defense consultant who has worked for both men.
Rumsfeld shot back, saying Cheney’s next book should be about heart transplants.
“I’m just a hunk of meat. Move me around anywhere,” Rumsfeld told his hosts, while greeting guests and posing for pictures with old friends such as Senator Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, now president of the Heritage Foundation.
Lynne Cheney, who supplied such words of wisdom for the book as “dogs don’t bark at parked cars,” was there with her husband.
Democrat John Podesta, the chairman of the Center for American Progress, explained his presence among the flock of Republicans.
“Former chief of staff club,” he said referring to his position under President Bill Clinton, while Rumsfeld held the same job in the Ford administration. Podesta said he and Rumsfeld have forged a friendship, despite their differing views.
Rumsfeld chided Podesta for having his nametag on the wrong side. “He’s hysterical, actually,” said Podesta about Rumsfeld’s hidden charm.
The book is a collection of Rumsfeld’s favorite anecdotes and adages that he’s collected through the years. He records such nuggets on the index cards he always keeps in his suit pocket.
He also offers his own erudition on everything from how to run a meeting to “the case for capitalism.”
Pillsbury, a China specialist, said he encouraged Rumsfeld to include quotes from Confucius and Mao Zedong, which he did, mixed in with witticisms from Mark Twain.
The book comes just in time for the arrival of Rumsfeld’s first great-grandchild, thanks to his granddaughter Kailey Schleich, who was on hand last night.
“I put her to work in my office,” he said, only half-joking, referring to DHR Holdings LLC, the home base of his Rumsfeld Foundation.
“He’s a fun boss,” she said.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Katya Kazakina on the art market, Alec McCabe on books.