Donald H. Rumsfeld, the powerful defense secretary and architect of the Iraq War who left office two years ago as he faced ever-rising criticism, is working on a memoir to be published by Penguin Group (USA) in 2010.
"This will be a story that will span my lifetime," Rumsfeld, 75, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday from his office in Washington, D.C. "It will be something that I will try hard to have be very fair and honest and useful. I hope it adds to people's information about these times."
Books by such former Bush administration officials as treasury secretary Paul O'Neill and CIA director George Tenet have come out, but Rumsfeld's take is closer. A longtime friend and close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld was among the most influential defense secretaries ever and the most visible and controversial since Robert McNamara in the 1960s.
Rumsfeld met with several publishers and received "big bids" for his book, according to a publishing official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations. But Rumsfeld decided to accept no advance, only money for expenses. Any profits will be donated to a foundation he established recently to fund such projects as grants for "promising young individuals" interested in public service.
"I didn't know when I wanted to do it and how fast I wanted to do it, and I didn't want to feel an obligation to anybody," said Rumsfeld, whose book is currently untitled.
His memoir will be released by Sentinel, a conservative imprint of Penguin. The deal was negotiated by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who worked on it with fellow Williams & Connelly attorney Michael O'Connor. Barnett has handled multimillion-dollar contracts for former President Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and many others.
Rumsfeld's career in government began in the 1960s, when he was a Republican congressman from Illinois and continued through his work in several administrations, including defense secretary under former President Ford and defense secretary again — the only person to hold that position twice — under the current President Bush.
Rumsfeld also will write about his years in the private sector: He served as CEO of G.D. Searle & Company in the 1970s and 1980s, and as CEO of the General Instrument Corporation in the early 1990s.
He is famous for his intelligence, demanding personality, endless memos and unpredictable remarks, such as saying "stuff happens" in response to looting in Baghdad. He is also known as a master of Washington politics, outmaneuvering such foes as Colin Powell, the first secretary of state under President Bush.
"He hasn't given me any indication that he's going to dodge anything. He's been refreshingly and divertingly candid in my presence," Sentinel publisher Adrian Zackheim told the AP. "He's a fantastic storyteller and he has extraordinary recall, as you would think. And he's fantastic about details, just like you would think."
"Oh, goodness, one always hopes to be candid and honest," Rumsfeld said, adding that the press tends to "overplay" personalities and that he would deal with that "honestly and directly."
"I don't plan to write any kind of a `quickie Washington book.' I plan to take my time. I expect it (the book) will be very well researched and carefully documented."
Rumsfeld's legacy, for now, is the Iraq War, which he used as a test for his strategy of high-tech weapons and light, mobile troop placement, instead of the massive deployments preferred by Powell. But as the war dragged on, Rumsfeld's approach was increasingly criticized and President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation the day after the 2006 elections, when Democrats took control of Congress, using Rumsfeld as a favorite target.
"Certainly, that period from 2001 to 2006 will be covered," Rumsfeld said. "It is a time when this country faced some new and challenging responsibilities and reasonably unfamiliar circumstances."
Asked if his book would include any regrets or second-guessing of himself, Rumsfeld said: "I suppose in life you'll always do some of that, but that is a kind of favorite press question, `What is your biggest mistake?'"
Acknowledging that he has never written a book, and "never tried," Rumsfeld said that he been working with a small staff to organize his thoughts and will have research and editorial assistance. His memoir will be edited by Sentinel's Jeffrey A. Krames, himself the author of "The Rumsfeld Way: The Leadership Wisdom of a Battle-Hardened Maverick," which came out in 2002.
Penguin is owned by Pearson PLC.