"A compelling and meticulously researched book. Rumsfeld acknowledged in announcing his resignation that "I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof." He surely suspected what the broad contours of this book would be, and yet he sat for multiple interviews with Graham, as did Vice President Dick Cheney, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, close associate Larry Di Rita and Rumsfeld's wife, Joyce. It is careful, human portrait that avoids the predictable cheap shots while eviscerating Rumsfeld's style, many of his decisions and their effects." --Nathaniel Fick, Washington Post (read the whole Washington Post review)
"A What's ultimately most rewarding about this outstanding work of contemporary history is that the author never falters in the kind of balanced, fair-minded reconstruction of events and personalities that leaves readers free to form their own, similarly nuanced appraisal of a complex and confounding public figure." --Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times (read the whole LA Times review)
"In the end, what this book does most clearly is remind the reader that there were plenty of warnings before the invasion of the postwar problems the United States might encounter in Iraq and that within months of the March 2003 invasion, critics were already calling for more troops and a new overall strategy to secure the country. With the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, some members of Congress and Bush’s own inner circle were urging a change at the Pentagon, but, Mr. Graham says, “the president remained reluctant to do anything that might disrupt the management of the war and wasn’t convinced that anyone else could easily take over from Rumsfeld.” Mr. Bush would not decide to replace the defense secretary for another two years." --Michiko Kakutani, New York Times [read the whole NY Times review]
"Graham’s “By His Own Rules” is less a biography of Rumsfeld than a study of Rumsfeld as a Washington archetype: the operator, the insider, the bureaucratic infighter. It does cover Rumsfeld’s life from childhood on — his enthusiasm for wrestling and squash, his attitudes toward money, his marriage — but only cursorily. At the book’s heart is Rumsfeld’s behavior in committee meetings and boardrooms, with the focus on the skirmishes that marked the gradual deterioration of the war in Iraq.
The title is meant literally. Rumsfeld is one of those executives who are fond of lists, aphorisms and bromidic rules for living. Graham, a veteran Washington Post correspondent, traces Rumsfeld’s management style through initiatives, guidelines, directives and the memorandums that Rumsfeld sent in such blizzard-like profusion that Pentagon employees took to calling them “snowflakes.” The result is a book that is overlong but authoritative and judicious, particularly on questions of where responsibility lies for decisions about the Iraq war." --Christopher Caldwell, New York Times Sunday Book Review [read the entire NY Times Sunday Book Review piece]
"Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham chronicles the full span of Rumsfeld’s remarkable career in a surprisingly balanced and fair new biography, By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld. Graham does an excellent job of tracing the man’s meteoric rise in Washington, relaying insights from friends and associates about the famed Rumsfeld management style, which some call one of his biggest faults." --Jamie M. Fly, The National Review (read the entire National Review review)
"Journalists have produced many caricatures of Donald Rumsfeld, but no portraits. Until now, that is. Bradley Graham's By His Own Rules (PublicAffairs) offers a nuanced portrayal of the former defense secretary that is likely to serve as the definitive work for years to come. Those who dislike Rumsfeld will find plenty to stoke their anger; those who admire him much that is praiseworthy. Those few with an open mind will learn a great deal about the man, his gifts and his flaws." --Tom Mahnken, Foreign Policy [read the whole Foreign Policy review]
"The engaging early chapters reveal his subject as remarkably unevolved. Throughout his life—as a Princeton wrestler, Navy pilot, Illinois congressman, White House aide and corporate CEO, no less than as a two-time secretary of defense—Rumsfeld has been a self-promoter, intolerant of slights or dissent, and driven more by the love of a brawl than by any goal. Richard Nixon, who knew of what he spoke on such matters, once called him as a "ruthless bastard." That was a compliment." --Fred Kaplan, Newsweek [read the whole Newsweek review]
"Thomas E Ricks’ account of the American military adventure in Iraq, Fiasco, contained a brief section entitled “Rumsfeld vs Reality”. As if the heading hadn’t said it all, the following four pages identified the SecDef’s many shortcomings as the occupation floundered and the insurgency gathered momentum: “cognitive dissonance”, “self-confident stubbornness” and “towering hubris”. Now Bradley Graham, the former Pentagon correspondent of the Washington Post, has devoted some 700 pages to the subject. Will such a detailed enquiry challenge our preconceptions?
One wonders, given Donald Rumsfeld’s famous impatience with the prolix and recherché, which of these critical accounts he would appreciate most. It’s as if Graham, in studying an undoubtedly potent figure whose vision was nevertheless marred by a tendency to dismiss all conflicting views peremptorily, felt obliged to weigh every conceivable mitigating fact with the utmost care. That is not to say that By His Own Rules wastes words. Rumsfeld has been one of America’s political prime movers. The fascinating contradictions of this complex and influential personality demand a serious enquiry, and that is what we have here.
Graham interviewed Rumsfeld on a number of occasions during and after his time in office. This book also draws upon archived material and further interviews with scores of other people who knew Rumsfeld and Graham obtained access to a number of previously unpublicized Pentagon documents. The result is an extraordinarily thorough account of Donald Rumsfeld’s rise and fall." --Andy Bunday, The Tribune Magazine [read the whole Tribune review]
"Full of revealing anecdotes and insights, even if the sources are the usual Beltway backstabbers. Two and a half years have passed since Rumsfeld resigned as defense secretary. Although the best assessment of his impact will come from historians, this is a very good start." --Michael O'Donnell, barnesandnoble.com [read the whole Barnesandnoble.com review]
"Bradley Graham’s By His Own Rules is a valuable, thorough and fair-minded look at the long career of Donald Rumsfeld, with particular emphasis on Rumsfeld’s tenure at the Pentagon in the Bush years. The story that emerges is that of an intelligent, hard-working, innovative, abrasive, blinkered and oddly indecisive secretary of defense, whose failings contributed to catastrophe in Iraq." --Kenneth Silber, newmajority.com [read the whole post at NewMajority.com]