Long Read: “Errol Morris, On Donald Rumsfeld’s Inability to Separate Fact from Fantasy”

Calum Marsh, from Esquire‘s Political Blog:

In his more than thirty-five years as a documentarian, Errol Morris has profiled a lot of delusional people: Holocaust deniers, unpunished murderers, serial killer obsessives. None are as oblivious to their own mistakes as Donald Rumsfeld proves to be in this film. The Unknown Known has been criticized in some quarters for going too easy on its subject, but the truth is that Morris simply takes a more subtle approach. He doesn’t ridicule or undermine Rumsfeld; he doesn’t resort to rhetorical shortcuts or attempt to trick him into the corner of a lie. He doesn’t need to. It’s an axiom of literary criticism that the most damning evidence is always direct quotation. Morris does just that: He hangs Rumsfeld with his own words.

We had the chance to catch up with Morris in the lead-up to The Unknown Known’s release this week to talk politics, language, and why some critics have misunderstood the film…

Esquire: One of the things I find fascinating about the film is that it’s neither a portrait of a master manipulator nor an exposé of somebody who is lying, but rather a profile of a person so impressed by his own aphorisms and slogans that they’re enough for him. He’s not hiding the truth, because he doesn’t have anything to hide.

EMorris: More or less, yes. There’s that smile, throughout the movie—to me it’s that look of supreme self-satisfaction. Look what I just said. I’m the cat who’s just swallowed the canary. I’m so smart, I’m so clever. And yet when you look at these principles—at times I call them Chinese fortune cookie philosophies—they quickly devolve into nonsense talk….

ESQ: When he’s being vague or evasive, is he deliberately trying to hide something, or is that kind of nonsense sincerely all he can give?

EMorris: Again you’ve gone to the heart of the movie. I don’t know whether it’s ever possible to pin him down in that regard. My own thought is that there’s nothing there—that in the end all you’re left with is the smile…

I went to Google to try and track down some of the 2003/4 conservative semi-erotica written about Rumsfeld (No doubt about it, Don Rumsfeld is a stud muffin”), and got distracted by the NYTimes review (with video!) of Morris’ film:

Clips from press briefings during the Iraq war illustrate his penchant for using semantics as a weapon, one he wields with undiminished glee against Mr. Morris. When the filmmaker presses him on the “torture memos” authorizing harsh treatment of suspected terrorists, Mr. Rumsfeld rephrases the question in such a way as to minimize any moral stigma and also any hint of his own responsibility. “Little different cast I just put on it than the one you did,” he says, breaking into a smile and raising a finger of triumph. “I’ll chalk that one up.”…

Once again, the Bush Regency motto: “We create our own reality.”

When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the McKinley-era explanations of why America “needed” to annex the Philippines — for the “little brown brothers”‘s own good, as a bulwark against those other empires, because Manifest Destiny required that “we” take up our rightful place as The One True Christian Nation. But those Mark-I robber barons at least believed they were called upon to make a serious argument (even if they didn’t believe what they were arguing). The Cheney Crime Syndicate didn’t even bother with the argument part — just a blizzard of ‘snowflake’ Rumsfeld memos and a steady pipeline of Rove-to-Fox-News bullshit.

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74 replies
  1. 1
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    von Rumsfailed needs to go the way of Jodl, Keitel, and Tojo.

  2. 2
    Mnemosyne says:

    The one good thing I will say about Donald Rumsfeld is that he has a very pleasant voice. He probably would have done very well (and done a LOT less harm) as a radio announcer or voiceover actor.

    And I think people who expected remorse from Rumsfeld like Morris got from Robert MacNamara forget that MacNamara had already repented — MacNamara wrote In Retrospect back in 1996, and Morris made The Fog of War in 2003.

  3. 3

    serial killer obsessives

    Is he talking about Ayn Rand?

  4. 4
    Hungry Joe says:

    Most likely Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, and their Whole Sick Crew will die old, and peacefully, in upscale beds. If there’s a better argument against the existence of god — or at least, the existence of a deity I’d have any truck with — I’d like to hear it.

  5. 5
    bemused says:

    It’s disturbing to watch Rumsfeld. He is oblivious to introspection, self-examination, regrets, questioning himself on anything. It doesn’t seem to ever cross his mind to do so. Nothing seems to touch him in a normal human way. He just seems to somewhat puzzled and highly amused. He really creeps me out.

  6. 6
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Hungry Joe:

    That’s how both Pol Pot and Pinochet went, so you’re probably right. The attempts to prosecute them didn’t get very far.

  7. 7
    mellowjohn says:

    @bemused:
    i think you call someone like that a sociopath.

  8. 8
    Butch says:

    I saw Morris on Maddow last night, and almost got the feeling Rachel was sorry she tried to interview him. Not to diminish in any way from his film, but in person (on the teevee at least) he has this weird “not there” personality.

  9. 9
    nancydarling says:

    Among Rummy’s venial sins is not flossing and not brushing very well. This retired dental hygienist’s eyes spotted gingivitis in the picture Pierce had up the other day. I know, I know. It’s petty but I can’t help myself. If he can’t attend to that little detail, what other details does he willfully overlook about himself? I also can’t help zeroing in on people’s teeth because it’s what I did for almost 40 years.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/p.....-interview

  10. 10
    sophronia says:

    Trying to figure out who was the most irredeemably evil of that Bush bunch is such a futile exercise. The White House really must have been just like those terrible movies where all the world’s great villains sit around a boardroom table and plan the destruction of the world. I used to think some of them must have at least thought they were doing right (the road to hell being paved with good intentions and all that) but now I think they just didn’t give a shit at all.

  11. 11
    MattF says:

    Just thinking about the higher-ups in GWB’s White House is enough to make you stop and wonder that we survived: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rove– and then others just below the top level, like Bolton, Gonzales, Thiessen…. A horror show.

  12. 12
    Patrick says:

    Trying to figure out who was the most irredeemably evil of that Bush bunch is such a futile exercise.

    Well, don’t forget the 50% of the American people who re-elected these folks.

  13. 13
    Ruckus says:

    Anne
    You summed it up in the last word of your post.
    Bullshit.
    That is what passes for conservative thought and writing. Bullshit. Twas always the same.
    All they have done is learn to push their bullshit louder and more publicly. “Better” conservatives are just better bullshitters. Rumsfeld is a perfect example. He really says nothing, while all the time his lips move and words come out.
    Conservatives want a world that only partially or even at all existed decades/hundreds of years ago, while the world moves forward. One direction only, time doesn’t go backwards. Thinking that it should is just dumb, it’s a denial of reality. Which of course conservatives are very practiced at.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    @Ruckus:

    And they never need to leave the bullshit zone, to do better than the clever witticisms, because there are no consequences for them. Not really. The worst that can happen is that the voters will get mad enough to cost you your job, but if that happens, the Wingnut Welfare Circuit will take care of you. Certainly you’ll never need to worry about prison, or any of these things that vulgar, lower criminals like Mafia kingpins might have happen to them. You’re above it all.

  15. 15
    Anton Sirius says:

    @Butch:

    I saw Morris on Maddow last night, and almost got the feeling Rachel was sorry she tried to interview him. Not to diminish in any way from his film, but in person (on the teevee at least) he has this weird “not there” personality.

    Haven’t watched that ep of TRMS yet, but speaking as someone who has interviewed Morris he’s not very comfortable talking about himself, or with the idea of himself as a ‘celebrity’ of some kind. He can be very animated and engaged when talking about his subjects, though, if you can get through to him on that level – watching him get wound up about Joyce McKinney when he was doing the rounds for Tabloid was a hoot.

  16. 16
    bemused says:

    @mellowjohn:

    Yes. Thankfully, I’ve only had closer contact with a couple of people in my life I think had strong sociopathic tendencies and I felt very uncomfortable around them. Rumsfeld really makes my skin crawl.

  17. 17
    Anton Sirius says:

    @Patrick:

    Well, don’t forget the 50% of the American people who re-elected these folks.

    50% of the voting population

    And no, it’s not nit-picking.

  18. 18
    GregB says:

    As America was cheering on the misbegotten war and flag waving, I sat back and watched with horror.

    I remember when an ostensibly liberal pal talked about how impressed he was with the Rumsfeld pressers and his supposed masterful ways.

    I saw the same self-satisfied fool that Morris saw.

    Nothing has changed since.

  19. 19
    geg6 says:

    Last week, Morris was on Real Time and Maher was so taken aback by Morris’ impression of Rummy that he, reluctantly and sorta/almost, defended him. Not his crimes, but the fact that he was a brain, which Morris vigorously argued against. I tend to come down on Morris’ side here. I think Rummy has gotten through life on his arrogance, his ability to glibly brush off any questioning of his actions and his delusions of grandeur. You don’t have to have a huge intellect to do those things. I think too many of us give these guys too much credit.

    They are, basically, stupid and violent sociopaths.

  20. 20
    JustRuss says:

    “Little different cast I just put on it…

    I’m sure the people who were tortured and sometimes killed by your enhanced interrogation techniques don’t care what kind of cast you put on it, you fucking monster.

  21. 21
    jl says:

    Rumsfeld is very old. The torch has been passed…

    Pat Buchanan Thinks God Is On Putin’s Side

    ‘ And he even encouraged Putin to wage a war with the West “not with rockets,” but instead “a cultural, social, moral war.” ‘

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/l.....ussia-side

  22. 22
    Mnemosyne says:

    @GregB:

    As I said above, if you pay no attention to the substance of what Rumsfeld is saying and only listen to his tone and inflection, he sounds very soothing and knowledgeable. But when you actually look at the transcript and read what he said, you realize that it’s word salad worthy of Sarah Palin.

  23. 23
    Kathy Gustafson says:

    My favorite was “We know where the WMD are. They’re somewhere to the north, south, east, or west of Tikrit.”

  24. 24
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Anton Sirius: Really, I bet the number is closer to 27% of the American people, but I’m too lazy to do the math

  25. 25
    Tone in DC says:

    Errol Morris: …There’s that smile, throughout the movie—to me it’s that look of supreme self-satisfaction. Look what I just said. I’m the cat who’s just swallowed the canary. I’m so smart, I’m so clever. And yet when you look at these principles—at times I call them Chinese fortune cookie philosophies—they quickly devolve into nonsense talk….

    I am less surprised than some people that Rumsfeld (and so many other g00pers) act like this. All their lives, from grade school, to Choate/Exeter/Groton through to the Ivy League and after, their parents, friends and peers all tell these people their shit doesn’t stink. That it’s better than Joy, Chanel number 5 and Cool Water combined. That had to be the case with Dumbya. To me, Rummy, Condi, Cheney the Impaler and the rest of that maladministration had to all have grown up that way. If, like these Bushies, you don’t have an ounce of introspection (or common sense), you’ll believe what the parents, friends and peers say. By 8th grade, if not sooner.

    The word privilege does not cover this overriding sense of semi-infallibility and entitlement. I saw this attitude in college, at Georgetown. Some days, the sheer force of it was enough to peel paint. I see it in the workforce around here. Muffy, Biff and Rummy are all verrry special snowflakes.

  26. 26
    Mnemosyne says:

    @nancydarling:

    I finally started flossing regularly after my third root canal (I went without dental insurance for years, so it took a while to get my teeth and gums back into shape). My dentist keeps wanting to do a “Scared Straight: Dental Edition” video with me because I haven’t had a single cavity since.

  27. 27
    Chris says:

    @sophronia:

    I think the notion that they were doing good, or at least that what they were doing would have good results, is what they told themselves in order to feel better about what they wanted to do anyway.

    In the same way CEOs promote the ideology that “greed is good” because it convinces them that what’s good for them is what’s good, or at least best, for the masses, Republican politicians tell themselves that the war they wanted to fight anyway will be better for these hajjis because it’ll liberate them. It’s not that they’re setting out to do good, so much as convincing themselves that their personal interests align with “good,” which renders any qualms they or anyone else might have irrelevant. (Yes, maybe we’re going to Iraq for the oil, so what? It’ll turn the country free in the process. Isn’t that good?)

  28. 28
    Patrick says:

    @Anton Sirius:

    I have little to no sympathy for people who choose not to vote.

  29. 29
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Apologies for the O/T, but here’s some good news from Ohio.

  30. 30
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: That’s it. It is the end of gay marriage bans. The Full Faith and Credit Clause will inevitably do them in.

  31. 31
    hoodie says:

    Just watched a clip of Morris’s interview with the Fonzie of Freedom. Asked why Rumsfeld was allowed to get away with his gobbledygook and obfuscation, Morris concludes “because we’re morons.”

    Rumsfeld reminds me of a senior litigator I used to work with. This guy may have been competent at one time but, by the time I knew him, had been phoning it in for quite a while and had a deep and abiding relationship with Johnnie Walker Red. However, he had this weird effect on quite of few otherwise highly intelligent people (lawyers). He rarely said shit because, well, he had nothing to say. Some people would interpret that as some sort of Eastwoodian profundity, kind of like Chance the Gardener, and that was reinforced by a somewhat abrupt and sarcastic manner he adopted when challenged or threatened. However, when you did get a glimpse into his inner thoughts, they were the most banal crapola you could imagine (he was a terrible racist, kept a copy of the Bell Curve in his office). The point being, he fit some template of what people in a particular hothouse thought a wise trial lawyer should be, and he had stumbled on a formula for maintaining that image — surround yourself with people to do the real work, don’t say much or be deliberately vague when you do open your mouth and intimidate people when they might pose a threat to that image. I think Rumsfeld had a similar effect on the national press, he fit some template that made them not deeply question his statements, and had an intimidating manner that tended to prevent them from pursuing his failure to actually answer their questions.

    Thus, I don’t think Morris’ answer is entirely accurate. Conservatives tend to operate most effectively in limbic medium, where things like manor, body language and modes of response are more important than content. Maybe that’s why people who fall for conservative politicians can live with what seem like intolerable levels of hypocrisy and illogic, because the dissonance does not manifest itself in that limbic space. That’s also why there is probably something to the expression that DC is wired for conservativism, because the DC press environment is highly limbic, dominated by things like access and status. They’re particularly susceptible to the type of manipulation Rumsfeld engages in, so Rumsfeld becomes a Delphic sage rather than the third rate carnival barker that he is.

  32. 32
    Old Dan and Little Ann says:

    @geg6: That episode had me screaming at the tv. Maher’s defense of Rumsfeld was pretty much, “Well, he’s not the WORST.” Well so fucking what? And Morris’ main reason for knowing Rumsfeld is as bad as he said is because of his “smile.” Oi!

  33. 33
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: WTF? I’ve heard this before, but how can you hear what his voice sounds like over the sound of the nonsense he spews?!

  34. 34
    danielx says:

    It’s disturbing to watch Rumsfeld. He is oblivious to introspection, self-examination, regrets, questioning himself on anything. It doesn’t seem to ever cross his mind to do so. Nothing seems to touch him in a normal human way. He just seems to somewhat puzzled and highly amused. He really creeps me out.

    One must admit that Rumsfeld is hardly unique among Bush administration alumni in this regard, with W being the chief example. Bush in particular (even more than most presidents) is notorious for never admitting to an error – ever. Cheney has said explicitly that he wouldn’t change a thing he had done during his eight year term as Regent, which does give cause for concern over his grasp of reality. If he still thinks things were going just swimmingly in Iraq in 2004-2005 and wouldn’t change any of the decisions that were made back them, his grip on such concepts as logic, cause and effect and so on seems somewhat tenuous.

  35. 35
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Butch:

    I saw Morris on Maddow last night, and almost got the feeling Rachel was sorry she tried to interview him. Not to diminish in any way from his film, but in person (on the teevee at least) he has this weird “not there” personality.

    I saw him on Colbert and I think it’s an act. The “who me?” thing is tied to a certain cultural place and time and it’s a way to deflect what would be coming to him for crucifying the tighty righty’s hero otherwise. He’s still in the entertainment biz, he’s an old hand, and he’s trying to sell a project, not (directly) engage in activism.

    In fact, on Colbert, Morris asserts that it’s Rumsfeld for whom there’s no there there, so I find your comment interesting that way.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Sometimes the radio is on in the background and you don’t realize who’s talking until they say who it is.

  37. 37
    Butch says:

    @Anton Sirius: I didn’t mean to be critical of him or his film and apologize if I came off that way. At one point Rachel actually asks him if he can hear her because he’s not responding; it was just an odd interview.

  38. 38
    bemused says:

    @Old Dan and Little Ann:

    Me too. Bill just annoyed the crap out of me.

  39. 39
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @mellowjohn: Nope, just another narcissist, hampered by being dumber than some of the others in the Bush cabinet but a bit more vicious.

    narcissists can be very shallow, they want praise, attention, power, to be special, what they don’t want to do is work hard, be authentic, listen to others, or question themselves

    sociopaths are characterized by being angry at the world. there could be some of that in gwb, the way he laughed at Karla Faye Tucker was just disturbing, although he showed a lot of that in group/out group thing that makes people without personality disorders do evil things, so it’s possible it was just his authoritarianism straight up. KFT was a poor convict, defs in his out-group. So were the victims of Katrina.

  40. 40
    Mike in NC says:

    That scum like Rummy and Cheney and their minions aren’t today wearing orange jumpsuits is a crime.

  41. 41
    WereBear says:

    @hoodie: That’s a great bunch of insights, I really (if sadly) enjoyed reading it.

    It reminds me of the conservatives I know, most of whom don’t think at all. They’ve never had to. Everything they “know” they got told, everything they do is an order from someone else, what they feel is a result of the same buttons being pushed by the same things, over and over.

    That’s why it is so startling when they do have a corner of something they do have to themselves; they can be fine cabinet workers, or gardeners, or something like that, and they seem like normally functioning people when they talk about their hobbies… and then you run into the programming and they snap back into their programmed selves.

    It’s no way to live.

  42. 42
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Mnemosyne: IIRC that’s the way Ken Lay went, too. Wingnut wargriftery isn’t just for pols.

  43. 43
    boatboy_srq says:

    Dupe post. FYWP.

  44. 44
    RandomMonster says:

    @sophronia:

    Trying to figure out who was the most irredeemably evil of that Bush bunch is such a futile exercise.

    It’s true they’re mostly equivalent, but I think the award must always go to Cheney, just for the snarling lip and will-to-power demeanor.

  45. 45
    bemused says:

    @danielx:

    Oh yeah, Cheney is another arrogant creep. He only allows himself a little smirk on occasion as he’s lying his ass off. Rumsfeld is just so tickled with himself and his supposed cleverness that his face lights up in those highly inappropriate gleeful grins. Adds another level of creepy for me.

  46. 46
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @geg6: Glib is right. I never took him for intelligent but yeah, he can talk fast.

    Of course, a decision to go to war hinges on a lot of emotional intelligence, not just verbal prowess or math skills, so both a sociopath and a narcissist would lack that.

    I will say this, though–sociopaths who are successful in later life (you can’t really be diagnosed as a sociopath without having an anti-social disorder as a youth) tend to HIDE these traits so they get along with others. They also tend to have a lot of frontal lobe development (the ones that don’t end up in prison). So to me, the lack of depth, the lack of emotional restraint, all of these argue AGAINST sociopath because he wouldn’t be functioning, and FOR narcissist. NPD isn’t about being angry/hostile all the time, although they can get really pissed really fast if you don’t kiss their ass when they’re expecting it, which Rumsfeld apparently did behind closed doors in the Bush admin, but it is about wanting attention, praise, glory, all the stuff he courted from the press during Bush admin I. Narcissists are social dominators who know what levers to push to get people in the position they want them–their knowledge of other topics is lacking because it completely lacks salience to them. Whereas an intelligent sociopath can be extremely competent in their chosen field.

    Narcissists can sometimes be hard to distinguish from sociopaths or psychopaths to law enforcement because both lack empathy for others and only care about themselves and both can exhibit rage.

    But to me, all the evidence is on the NPD end for Rummy.

  47. 47
    sharl says:

    Glad you mentioned McKinley. Apparently DC has been a particularly powerful magnet for sociopaths for a long time (at least since the post-Civil War years AFAICT), and their collective evil seems to build up to a critical mass every now-and-then.

    Sorry, Iraq (but “freedom isn’t free” ya know)…sorry, Philippines (it’s “benevolent assimilation”, so it’s for your own good)…etc., etc.

    ETA: saw Holocene’s comment afterward, and he may be right – narcissism may be a more apt term than sociopath (though I suppose one might have elements of both disorders).
    Gotta ponder that…

  48. 48
    Chris says:

    @WereBear:

    It reminds me of the conservatives I know, most of whom don’t think at all. They’ve never had to. Everything they “know” they got told, everything they do is an order from someone else, what they feel is a result of the same buttons being pushed by the same things, over and over.

    It can be interesting to get one of them to actually answer questions like “what do you think SHOULD be done in this country” – get away from questions about who to blame and whatnot, and ask them concretely what they’d like to see the people running the government do. Because then, quite often you’ll get stuff that actually is liberal (I had one of them outline the Obama stimulus point by point when asked) – but the minute they find out that it’s liberal, they recoil and go “ewwwww.” It’s not coming from the right Authority, so forget it.

    (This is not a case of people changing their minds when the facts change, which can happen to anyone. I’m talking about actually thinking for yourself and then backtracking on your own thoughts because you just found out that you’re, essentially, committing thoughtcrime).

  49. 49
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Interesting that these Ohio cases are like the initial successful Massachusetts SJC case–family law.

    Once you look at the issue through the lens of family law (and without the patriarchial Xianist bullshit), you start to see the ripples of harm these kinds of bans cause to families and communities.

    I wonder if my great uncle’s partner’s kids, who must be older than my parents, are seeing this news now. My great uncle Marvin always wanted to be a father, and in the 1960s in Seattle he met a divorced man with custody of his two kids and they made a life together. They were together for two decades, separated by cancer. :( They were the kind of family that didn’t exist for mainstream America during the 20th century. Thank goodness for the 21st.

  50. 50
    cckids says:

    @Old Dan and Little Ann:

    That episode had me screaming at the tv. Maher’s defense of Rumsfeld was pretty much, “Well, he’s not the WORST.”

    This. Maher also kept defending the whole “known unknowns” speech as though it was a thoughtful & intelligent, even philosophical response. Morris tried his hardest to point out that it was a complete evasion to a press conference question, but Maher kept to his belief that Rumsfeld was the smart one of the Bushies.

  51. 51
    Mike G says:

    He is oblivious to introspection, self-examination, regrets, questioning himself on anything. It doesn’t seem to ever cross his mind to do so. Nothing seems to touch him in a normal human way.

    This is pretty much the epitaph of the entire Bush Assministration.

    Rummy didn’t just fall out of the sky either, he held various CEO positions in corporate America for years. This is the quality of mind that rules over us not just in Repuke governments but in corporations — the people who insist they are worth vast sums of money because of their rare brilliance. They’re basically ruthless master-bullshitters selected for their sociopathy.

  52. 52
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @bemused: I’ve read that little smirk is a liar’s tell that they can’t believe they’re getting away with it. Of course, with the power Cheney had, reporters are just stenographers and his comments won’t be challenged. (And boy, the nastiness and rage of GWB when that Irish reporter attempted to challenge him!)

    There’s a lot of people who say Cheney was a totally normal guy before 2000 (albeit a GOPer oilman). He CHOSE to be evil. He’s probably the only one of the lot with the wherewithal to know he done wrong and the conscience to suffer. He literally GAVE UP HIS NATURAL HEART to be the Darth Cheney we know and loath. What an asshole.

    That daughter of his who tried to run for USSen WY is some kind of slick freak, though. I might go ahead and call her sociopathic. She’s a straight-faced liar, threw her sister under the bus and thought people would love her for it, stabs anyone in the back… too bad WY, if right wing, rural, and possessing a mean streak, has the population of a couple of small towns and come on, small towns catch on to you quick. Her hubris was kinda comical.

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @cckids:

    his belief that Rumsfeld was the smart one of the Bushies.

    To be fair, being the smart one of the Bushies is rather like being one of the taller little people.

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Did you ever read Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home? Her father comes across as a pretty tragic figure because he was a (mostly) gay man who really wanted to have children, so he married a woman and made everyone (including the kids he wanted so much) completely freakin’ miserable because of his misery.

    Thank goodness we’re getting to the point in our society where people won’t have to make that particular choice anymore.

  55. 55
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @sharl:

    ETA: saw Holocene’s comment afterward, and he may be right – narcissism may be a more apt term than sociopath (though I suppose one might have elements of both disorders).
    Gotta ponder that…

    There was this ugly criminal case in GB where this young man killed his parents and the court ordered psychologists couldn’t decide if it was sociopathy or narcissism. The cops were pissed off in the end because the judge decided he had narcissistic personality disorder and for some reason in GB that doesn’t mean “enjoy prison, asshole” but classifies you as mentally ill and you get put in the institute for the criminally insane slammer. Which has got to be fun for the schizophrenics, cognitively impaired, and otherwise incompetent murderers and rapists stuck in there with them.

    Anyway, the argument was that the guy had these outrageous fantasies of wealth and power and fame, which is a pretty NPD kind of trait. And they argued he killed his parents impulsively in a narcissistic rage when they wouldn’t give him money to prolong this fantasy life he was selling to his girlfriend. But what’s weird to me is that he showed complete indifference to being around rotting bodies–the bodies of his parents–because he later broke back into the house to try to hide evidence and so on. That seems more like psychopathic trait to me. It’s a kind of brain dysfunction where a person doesn’t recoil/flinch at dismembered bodies and stuff like that.

    Like, to me, a narcissist might try to kill someone and cover it up (kinda obsessed with this topic because a narcissist close to me admitted to fantasies of killing children years ago) but a psychopath dismembers the body, returns to the corpse, takes trophies, like they’re taking apart a car or something.

    It was probably a bit of both. Just hope they don’t let this guy out to kill again. Creepy.

  56. 56
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Mnemosyne: Marvin escaped that because his fiancee admitted right before the wedding that she didn’t want kids under any circumstances so he broke it off.

    My grandmother never forgave that woman… very closed minded.

    That woman did both of them a favor. I suspect she sought out a gay man thinking he wanted a lavender marriage. But that conversation made it clear he was trying to sacrifice to have kids of his own. At that point, there was no point in going forward.

  57. 57
    bemused says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    The smirks and grins are there because it was so easy to pull the wool over so many American eyes and they are still getting away with it. They won’t ever see any jail time let alone any legal prosecution. The smirks and grins also show, imo, a deep contempt for, well just about everybody not them.

  58. 58
    geg6 says:

    @Old Dan and Little Ann:

    Oh, I get what Morris was saying. That smile gets me every time, too. It’s the smile of a serial killer, a very self-satisfied, not-as-brilliant-as-he-thinks serial killer. Ted Bundy had a smile like that, too.

  59. 59
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Once you look at the issue through the lens of family law (and without the patriarchial Xianist bullshit), you start to see the ripples of harm these kinds of bans cause to families and communities.

    A very good point. I’m glad your great-uncle had a happy life with his partner, and sorry that it was both cut short and not yet legal or recognized by society.

  60. 60
    hoodie says:

    @geg6: The problem with comparing guys like Rumsfeld and Cheney to psychotics like Bundy is it clouds what is going on and makes it easy for people to dismiss your argument because Rumsfeld and Cheney would never intentionally rape or murder someone or do something so clearly outrageous. These are guys with kids and grandkids who love them. No, their actions are always justified, it’s just that the justification is fake logic forwarded in the name of some transcendental truth that lies mainly in their own heads (and the heads of their tribal relations). They are deeply stupid in ways that turn out to be toxic (e.g., like Eichmann’s total misunderstanding of Kant’s categorical imperative). My dad was a salesman, and he used to say that the most effective salesmen were guys that believed their own hoaxes.

  61. 61
    JGabriel says:

    ESQ: When he’s being vague or evasive, is [Rumsfeld] deliberately trying to hide something, or is that kind of nonsense sincerely all he can give?

    EMorris: Again you’ve gone to the heart of the movie. I don’t know whether it’s ever possible to pin him down in that regard. My own thought is that there’s nothing there—that in the end all you’re left with is the smile…

    Donald Rumsfeld, the Cheshire Chickenhawk.

  62. 62
    bobbo says:

    Mr. Rumsfeld rephrases the question in such a way as to minimize any moral stigma and also any hint of his own responsibility

    Wow, NYT misses everything by describing that episode rather than quoting Rumseld. I saw the clip, and though I don’t remember it word for word, it was basically “the attorney general of the United States wrote memos saying that it was not torture. And he was appointed by the President and his appointment was approved by both houses of Congres.” So basically a series of logical fallacies to defend himself, and the NYT just buys it hook line and sinker. And THEN quotes Rumsfeld testifying to his own rhetorical brilliance.

    Pathetic.

  63. 63
    bobbo says:

    @Butch:

    Not to diminish in any way from his film, but in person (on the teevee at least) he has this weird “not there” personality.

    Totally agree.

  64. 64
    Ruckus says:

    @hoodie:
    So what you are saying is DC is exactly like jr high school.

  65. 65
    Ruckus says:

    @cckids:

    Rumsfeld was the smart one of the Bushies.

    He may have been. But that bar is so low that it’s hard to differentiate the relative merits of any of them and therefore is rather immaterial.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ruckus:

    Given that at least one of his colleagues was described as “the stupidest fucking person on the planet,” Rummy didn’t really have a high bar to jump.

  67. 67
    Margaret Nolan says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    My take on Rumsfeld is that he epitomizes what some call “malignant narcissism.”

  68. 68
    Bill in Section 147 says:

    @jl: So that whole, “…liberals are rooting against America,” was just projection.

    Quelle suprise.

  69. 69
    Ruckus says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    Exactly.
    And he still only managed to slither under the bar.

  70. 70
    TheWatcher says:

    @hoodie: You are mistaken. These people are WORSE than Ted Bundy. They manipulated the U.S., in its time of grief and fear, to rape and murder an ENTIRE COUNTRY, for no other reason than to fulfill their twisted vision. Serial killers are pikers next to these monsters.

  71. 71
    Anton Sirius says:

    @Butch:

    I didn’t mean to be critical of him or his film and apologize if I came off that way.

    No, not at all – if anything I was agreeing with you that yes, Morris can come across that way. Just offering a reason why he comes across that way.

    Having now watched the interview though, I think there were some technical issues. The delay between question and response was longer than normal for either a satellite interview or an Errol Morris interview.

  72. 72
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @hoodie:

    This guy may have been competent at one time but, by the time I knew him, had been phoning it in for quite a while and had a deep and abiding relationship with Johnnie Walker Red. However, he had this weird effect on quite of few otherwise highly intelligent people (lawyers).

    Ooo, ooo, I saw that show–it was called Boston Legal!

  73. 73
    LAC says:

    @Old Dan and Little Ann: still trying to figure out how that smirky douchecanoe still has a show.

  74. 74
    Hurling Dervish says:

    Russert: –I picked up “The National Review,” and let me show you the cover: “The Stud: Don Rumsfeld, America’s New Pinup.”
    How is your wife dealing with this?
    Rumsfeld: Joyce is amused by the whole thing.
    Russert: She gets it. (Laughter.)
    Rumsfeld: She thinks it’s all a passing phase and life will go on.
    Russert: Sixty-nine years old, and you’re America’s stud?
    Rumsfeld: Come on. Get on to something serious, Russert.

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