I’m sure we’ve all seen this by now:
[A]s 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.
U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld
It has always struck me as amusing that the Bush-haters and other assorted smug liberals so love to use this quote as proof that Donald Rumsfeld is some sort of moron. Rumsfeld, in making this comment, wields the English language with the skill of a surgeon — cutting away extraneous verbiage with a precision that is uncommon in political figures…
…but it appears to be a bit too complex of an idea for the limited comprehension of people whose concept of reasoned debate is to slap a Bu$hitler bumper sticker on their car.
A quick Google search turns up several examples, ranging from a fairly clever “poetry review” from Slate, which states: “Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile,” to a pathetically incoherent entry complete with the standard “Republicans = Nazis” references that make even less sense than usual in this context. (Note also that this last entry is not only incoherent, but apparently not even original.) Yet another picks up the gauntlet by taking Rumsfeld’s “poetry” and setting it to music, while an organization in England has awarded him their annual “Foot in Mouth” award, which is given to the year’s “worst mangler of the English language”. Finally, we have a true intellectual who uses this quote as a basis for his theory that Rumsfeld must smoke pot; and a site that, without further explanation, posts the quote in their Stupid Quotes section.
“Stupid” indeed. If I had never heard this quote before, and you were to put it in front of me without attribution, and challenge me to guess who said it, I probably would have guessed “Stephen Hawking”. It sounds far more like the words of a good scientist than the inane babbling that liberals have branded it. The statement is logically and grammatically perfect. It is succinct, in that it states a complex concept just about as plainly and briefly as is possible. I believe even more telling about Rumsfeld’s sharpness is the fact that this was not some sort of prearranged statement, but an off-the-cuff response to a question. The man is sharp.
The rest of the transcript is worth reading. I’m glad that that man is where he is, doing what he’s doing. We are all better off for it, even if some people don’t know it.