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Rumsfeld: Hillary Clinton is the 'sideshow' in Benghazi flap

May 14, 2013 at 8:56 AM ET

Video: The former secretary of defense talks about his new book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” and the Benghazi attacks, saying he does believe there was a cover-up by the Obama administration. He also reflects on some of his controversial decisions during his tenure in the Bush administration.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said questions being raised by his fellow Republicans about the Benghazi embassy attack that killed four American diplomats are not politically motivated.

Asked Tuesday on TODAY whether criticism over the attack was an effort to discredit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered by many to be a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, Rumsfeld told Matt Lauer: “No, that’s the sideshow, is the Hillary Clinton piece of it.”

“If you’re going to put people at risk, you have to try to protect them,” Rumsfeld said. “The British took their people out because they knew they were at risk, and the Americans were left in and they weren’t provided the kind of security they needed, obviously, because they’re dead.”

Rumsfeld also maintained that the White House continues to cover up information about warning signs it had long before the attack occurred.

“I think as it’s unfolding, it’s very clear that the people knew from the outset that it was not the YouTube, that it was not a demonstration” that motivated the attack, he said. “People on the ground and people in Washington have now testified to that. “

The former defense secretary, who served in that position under both President Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, has a new book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” which outlines principles he says steered his decisions during his career.

Rumsfeld defended decisions he made that contributed to American involvement in Iraq after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He told Lauer he often relied on a memo he created, referred to as “the parade of horribles."

“I sat down and wrote down all the things that could go wrong that I could think of prior to the president’s decision to go into Iraq, one of which was there may not be stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Rumsfeld also recounted decisions he would have approached differently, like being more forceful with President Bush when he tried to resign over the scandal involving U.S. military abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison.

“A personnel decision, if it’s a mistake, it’s the mistake of the person doing the hiring as opposed to the person coming aboard,” Rumsfeld said. “I made a mistake by taking a former general and making him Secretary of the Army.”

The reference may be a slight against former Army Secretary Thomas White, whose tenure was marked by tension with his boss over several issues. White ultimately resigned upon Rumsfeld’s request in 2003.

“Personnel mistakes don’t get better with time,” Rumsfeld said.

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