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Lawmakers responded to the death of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by touting his service to the country, with Democratic members calling him a patriot despite disagreements over the Iraq War and other policies.
Rumsfeld, who died Wednesday at 88, served as secretary of defense twice: first in 1975 under President Gerald Ford and a second time during the George W. Bush administration following the 2000 election.
“Elaine and I were saddened today by the passing of an American patriot who served his country honorably and tirelessly,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, in a statement. “At every step of the way, Donald Rumsfeld led with conviction and a cutting intellect.”
He added, “Our nation has lost one of its fiercest defenders. But today, I know the Senate’s deepest sympathies are with Joyce and the entire Rumsfeld family, who have lost a beloved husband, father, and role model.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, noted Rumsfeld’s time as both the youngest and later the oldest defense secretary, as well as a three-term Republican congressman from Illinois.
“Donald Rumsfeld leaves behind a long and distinguished career at the highest levels of government. A man of skill, vision, and verve, he first served in elected office at the age of 30 as a Member of Congress in the People’s House. He served under four Presidents, becoming both the youngest and the second oldest man to serve as Secretary of Defense,” McCarthy said in a statement. “In all of these roles, Rumsfeld confronted the unique challenges facing our country with honor, integrity, and distinction, especially with his passionate advocacy for our heroes that serve in uniform and his steady leadership in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks."
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and former House GOP leadership member, whose father Dick Cheney served with Rumsfeld in both the Ford and George W. Bush administrations, told the Washington Examiner, “Donald Rumsfeld was a great patriot. He was somebody whose career was unparalleled in terms of his service in the Navy, Congress, the Pentagon, the White House."
“He was somebody who I knew all my life who was a mentor and a role model and somebody who will be tremendously missed, and the nation will be forever grateful for his service," she added.
Cheney joined her father and Rumsfeld in pushing for the invasion of Iraq after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, arguing Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. The hawkish camp argued a conflict would only last several months. Instead, it spanned over a decade, and the war itself became unpopular by 2003. Liz Cheney resigned from her Bush administration post in 2006.
One Democratic lawmaker referenced a Rumsfeld quote from Feb. 2, 2002, responding to a reporter’s question about evidence related to WMDs in Iraq.
“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,” Rumsfeld responded. “But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
“He's going to be remembered by that famous quote on the knowns and the unknowns. I think that's kind of classic Washington speak that will be maybe forever remembered for a long career,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, told the Washington Examiner.
“But I think he also will be remembered for his involvement in the Iraq War, which I think was pretty disastrous for Iraq in the states and had little justification with respect to 911," Connolly added. "And I think that's probably well, the part of his legacy, but he also had other parts of his career that were more luminary.”
Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and member of the progressive caucus, called Rumsfeld's passing "very tragic," adding, "Obviously, he served his country and, while we had disagreements, I never doubted his patriotism."
Another Democrat said that while he differed politically with Rumsfeld, the former secretary of defense was a Republican he could respect.
"First of all, it's sad. I didn't agree with a lot of the things. Obviously, I'm from the other party, but I respected him. He was a person that I think stood up for America around the world. I think he made some mistakes politically, but he was very honorable man," said Rep. Juan Vargas, a California Democrat.
He added: "So, I, like everybody else, respected him and see his passing as a sad thing, but again, he's the old-line Republican that stood for a lot of values and things that the Republicans today don't stand for, so at least I appreciate that."
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Original Author: Kerry Picket
Original Location: Lawmakers remember Rumsfeld as man of 'honor' and 'conviction'