Donald Rumsfeld and the New Definition of Man

I wanted to include this article by Mike Straka, a reporter from Fox News that I’ve come to find really amusing and his “Grrrrrr”‘s make him funnier yet. But this was pretty insightful.

Donald Rumsfeld and the New Definition of Man
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
By Mike Straka

As the cliche goes, what was once old is new again.

The saying usually pertains to some form of pop culture, particularly fashion — the pea coat (search) is this winter’s must have, for instance. But that’s not what this column is about.

It’s about having class and the post 9-11 definition of what a man is.

There’s no doubt that we live in a different world now than the one we lived in while the Twin Towers still stood.

Viewers who may have once been aroused by the sight of Britney Spears sucking face with Madonna during the MTV Music Awards were mostly repulsed. A basebrawl between New York and Boston on national television during the ALCS on FOX did more to anger baseball fans than to energize them. Quentin Tarantino’s blood strewn “Kill Bill” was not as well received as his “Pulp Fiction” was.

And while the flag waving may not be as ubiquitous as it was two years ago, it seems to me our patriotism is still strong, perhaps taking on a different, less conspicuous tone. America is reaching back to a time when “family values” were not just political rhetoric, but a way of life.

That’s not to say that the cultural strides we’ve made over the last 50 years should be forgotten. But why not add some old fashioned qualities of life ingredients into the pot for good measure?

Older generations shake their heads when they hear certain four-letter words that have become part of every day conversation. I know people who curse and don’t even realize they’re doing it, and I’m just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to vulgar word usage. It doesn’t make us bad people, but it does take something away.

I’ve mentioned in this space that I am about to become a father. In fact, our baby girl is due only a few weeks from now. The prospect of being a dad has led me to wonder what kind of man I want my daughter’s father to be, and what kind of environment I want her to be raised in.

I am lucky in that I have a great father and a great father-in-law to look up to and to take advice from, but I couldn’t help but wonder which celebrities or public figures out there might be good role models for fathers.

While I’m sure there are many I’ve overlooked, I could only come up with one who exemplifies the strength, honor, commitment and understanding to which I hope to aspire for my daughter.

Donald Rumsfeld (search).

“He’s strong, honest — perhaps to a fault,” says author Midge Decter, whose book “Rumsfeld: A Personal Portrait,” (search) (Regain Books) profiles the public and private life of our 21st Secretary of Defense.

“He’s brave and he never says anything in public, or private for that matter, that he doesn’t mean,” says Decter, who has known and admired Rumsfeld for some 20 years. “I discovered one day that he became a national hero…and he was the same man who has been in several public positions over the years…so we must be a different people,” she says.

Indeed, Rumsfeld’s a guy who is as no-nonsense as they come. He’s not afraid to be disliked. He ticks people off at the White House, at the Pentagon, overseas and in the private sector, but here’s the kicker: people can’t get enough of him.

They stop him for a picture on the street. They hound him for autographs at dinner. They want their daughters to meet someone just like him. Donald Rumsfeld, husband of nearly 50 years, father, grandfather, the face of America’s military machine, 71 years old, is a matinee idol.

“I don’t think he’s done anything to foster that image,” says Decter, “but I don’t think a man who is used to public life can be a reluctant hero.”

Rumsfeld has always been a tough competitor. People who work with him attribute that toughness to his champion wrestling career both at Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., (Charlton Heston also went there), and later at Princeton. Any one who ever wrestled can tell you it’s the Marines of sport, where self-discipline, motivation and toughness — physical and emotional — are the keys to success.

“He’s a rarity in Washington,” Decter says, and his man’s man qualities have resonated long past the beltway and into the cultural consciousness once dominated by boy bands and pop tarts.

Not even President Bill Clinton (search), arguably the most politically charming man on the planet, was ever designated with the term “sex symbol,” as Rumsfeld was when People magazine included him on its annual Most Beautiful List (search), with names including Tom Cruise and George Clooney.

Even ultra-hip movie producer Robert Evans, in his animated Comedy Central series Kid Notorious (search), claims to be poker buddies with the secretary and to have a direct line to his office. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.

We probably all know someone like Donald Rumsfeld. Show them the respect they’ve earned, and don’t forget that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.


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