…found myself being discussed for the vice presidential nomination.” As Bush family
James A. Baker III cautioned George W. a quarter-century later, whenRumsfeld’s name was bruited for secretary of defense, “You know what he did to your daddy.”Certainly he knew, and one can be forgiven for suspecting that this knowledge might have been a strong part of the attraction, perhaps for both men. When Errol Morris asksRumsfeld whether his former aide Dick Cheney had brought him into the Bushadministration, Rumsfeld replies, “I assume that’s the case. I don’t think George W.Bush’s father recommended it,” and then beams with self-congratulatorymischievousness. It is one of several digs at Bush the elder, at whose side he had treadedthe perilous path of the highest ambition until, at a critical moment in August 1980, bothmen found themselves at the Republican National Convention pacing nervously in their Detroit hotel rooms, awaiting a call from Ronald Reagan about who would be his vice- president. In the end it was George H.W. Bush who was called to history.
: It seems to me that if that decision had gone a slightly different way,you would have been vice-president and a future president of the United States.
: [Pause] That’s possible.Here as at several important moments in his brilliant and maddening film, Morris holdsfor three beats on that craggy inscrutable face, struggling to penetrate the benign “aw,shucks” good ol’ boy persona that Rumsfeld has worn so long he might well haveforgotten how to put it aside. A decade ago Morris’s camera, focused for those extra beatson the face of Robert Strange McNamara in
The Fog of War
, had seemed to penetrate tosome sort of appalling well of pain and pleading, deeply felt or conjured or both, lurking just behind McNamara’s rheumy eyes.Confronted with Rumsfeld’s cheerful, hale-fellow-well-met opacity, Morris is mostlyforced to plumb the shallows. At a question about his part in the so-called HalloweenMassacre, he affects wry surprise. (“I suppose it is” called that, he concedes, withelaborately feigned wonder at the proclivity of reporters and historians to get things sowrong.) His alleged derailing of the elder Bush’s ambitions he dismisses as “utter nonsense.” (“I suppose it’s kind of more fun for somebody to be able to say they were pushed rather than they tripped.”) And his legendary ambition? “I never knew what I wasgoing to do next,” he tells the filmmaker with chuckling insouciance. “The only thing I’veever volunteered for in my life: one, was to go into the Navy, and the other was to run for Congress.”t is a familiar pose, the modest, even self-effacing man of talent to whom good things just…happen. Such unbidden blessings float down in many guises—for example, in the benevolent and providential interest of a kindly president. In Bradley Graham’s account in
By His Own Rules
:The conversation in March  was one of a number of private talks, preserved by