Donald Rumsfeld


These are the exact words of the then-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, taken from his Pentagon briefings and other public statements. The text was originally arranged into “poems” by Hart Seely and published in Slate magazine in 2003. They were also released by a company called Stuffed Penguin on a CD entitled The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld and Other Fresh American Art Songs, with the words sung by soprano Elender Wall accompanied by Bryant Kong on the piano.



The Unknown

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.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

      Department of Defense news briefing
      Feb. 12, 2002




   




Glass Box

You know, it’s the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you’re using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can’t find it.
It’s—
And it’s all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—
Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—
But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

      Department of Defense news briefing
      Dec. 6, 2001




   




A Confession

Once in a while,
I’m standing here, doing something.
And I think,
“What in the world am I doing here?”
It’s a big surprise.

      Interview with the New York Times
      May 16, 2001




   




Happenings

You’re going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don’t happen.
It doesn’t seem to bother people, they don’t—
It’s printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.
Everyone’s so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story’s there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven’t happened.
All I can tell you is,
It hasn’t happened.
It’s going to happen.

      Department of Defense briefing
      Feb. 28, 2003




   




The Digital Revolution

Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!
A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

      Following European trip
      June 9, 2001




   




The Situation

Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won’t see.
And life goes on.                                                                                       

      Department of Defense news briefing
      Oct. 12, 2001




   




Clarity

I think what you’ll find,
I think what you’ll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.
And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

      Department of Defense briefing
      Feb. 28, 2003