Donald Rumsfeld’s White House memos are his gift to the world. Freely available on his website rumsfeld.com, he also publishes them to nurse four-decade-old office grievances in his books. If you accidentally happened to steal Donald Rumsefeld’s parking spot at the Piggly Wiggly believe me, he remembers–he took note of your licence plate number and he’s waiting, like a smiling mamba coiled up in the corner, for the perfect moment to reveal your transgression.
The memos are often one long stream-of-consciousness Ginsbergian howl, like this beauty from 1974. The new President Gerald Ford had just pardoned Richard Nixon, and Nixon’s Chief of Staff Alexander Haig objected to Ford’s ex-press secretary Jerry terHorst (who had resigned because of the pardon) telling The New York Times:
“Nixon’s preoccupation with Watergate had magnified Haig’s authority in the White House and the executive branch of government. For most of the final Nixon year, as Haig himself would agree, he was the acting President of the United States.”
Haig himself didn’t agree. “This is going to get dirty,” he ranted to his successor, “And I’ll blow the place wide open if I have to and it’ll be a goddamn bloody mess and no more of these second-rate people around the President are going to challenge my integrity and devotion to my country.”
“MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT
October 9, 1974
11: 00 a. m. to 12:00 Noon
I said I didn’t want to get in the subject with him but I did feel that he should know that I received a phone call on 10/4/74 from Haig on the pardon and that Haig had said that it was going to get dirty and I will blow the place wide open if I have to and it’ll be a goddamn bloody mess and no more of these second rate people around the President are going to challenge my integrity and devotion to my country and I’ve got Nixon, Garment, Buzzhardt, Ziegler and others with me and I’ve got verbatim records and I’ll do it… I stopped Haig and said, Look, I’ve taken enough and that he was very friendly to me. I said I didn’t want to get in to the subject and that I thought the President ought to be aware of it. A. Because Haig obviously called me so I would tell the President about it, B. Because I felt the President ought to be aware of Haig’s comment that he has ‘verbatim records.’ The President started to discuss it with me and I said, look, Mr. President, I don’t need to get into it– I simply wanted you to be aware of that message.”
When the Center Held: Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency, Donald Rumsfeld, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.