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What Did Rumsfeld Know and When Did He Know He Knew It?

By® Staff

Originally Posted

Okay, you've seen this, but it's too good for us to leave undocumented.

In a Feb 02 media briefing on the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was clearly heard to say (which is different than "heard to say clearly"):

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because 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."

Rumsfeld's remarks were nominated for - and won (?) - the 2003 "Foot in Mouth" award, dreamed up by the Plain English Campaign, a group that seems to believe public information should be clear, straightforward, and understandable.

"We think we know what he means," campaign spokesman John Lister said. "But we don't know if we really know."

The funny thing is, if you listen to Rummy talk, 1) he always sounds like this, and 2) surprisingly, a lot of it makes sense. Well, as much as any politician or bureaucrat ever makes sense. In this case, if you slow down and read the remark carefully, the logic is indisputable.

Rumsfeld's boss, U.S. President George W. Bush, frequently is the butt of jokes, columns, and worse by critics taking often-well-deserved potshots at his garbled syntax. But this time, the Secretary upstaged the President.

Second place in the Plain English F-i-M awards went to actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also has big feet. The California governor's nominated statement, made to a radio interviewer: "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

Last year's winner was giraffe-man Richard Gere, who said, "I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe, and somebody said I was a snake, I'd think, 'No, actually I am a giraffe.''

You are, Richard. You are a giraffe.

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