Before meetings in the run-up to the Iraq war, Bradley Graham writes, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would make chitchat with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“He’d talk about something that he knew was a hot button for Colin. It might be about voting rights or immigration or education or abortion,” one participant recalled. “And Colin, who is usually a cool head, would lose his cool.
And I’d think to myself, Wow, Rumsfeld is screwing with his head. That’s when I decided he was a very dangerous man.”
Graham’s “By His Own Rules” is less a biography of Rumsfeld than a study of Rumsfeld as a Washington archetype: the operator, the insider, the bureaucratic infighter.
It does cover Rumsfeld’s life from childhood on — his enthusiasm for wrestling and squash, his attitudes toward money, his marriage — but only cursorily.
At the book’s heart is Rumsfeld’s behavior in committee meetings and boardrooms, with the focus on the skirmishes that marked the gradual deterioration of the war in Iraq.