It would be out of character for Cockburn to write a balanced biography of Donald Rumsfeld, and this dark portrait of a manipulative schemer presents few redeeming qualities. Cockburn is, however, an assiduous investigator and skillful narrator. The story he tells is almost Shakespearean in its concluding tragedy. Out of the wreckage of the Nixon and Ford years comes the elder George Bush's abiding hostility toward Rumsfeld, which raises intriguing questions about how Rumsfeld could exercise such influence over the younger George Bush. The material on Iraq is familiar but usefully and effectively pulled together, taking the book to its grim conclusion. The denouement was surprisingly prolonged. It had been apparent for some time that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld would have to go, yet Bush waited until the political damage was done, and congressional elections were lost, before firing him.
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