Donald Rumsfeld seems to have given access to the person who loathes him the most in the world to produce a documentary of his life.
Errol Morris appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night to talk with Maher about his forthcoming documentary on Rumsfeld, “The Unknown Known.” Maher watched the documentary and came away with some appreciation for Rumsfeld, even if the liberal political comedian clearly does not agree with the former Defense secretary for Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush on most issues.
Morris, however, seemed disappointed that Maher didn’t come away from his film thinking Rumsfeld is evil incarnate:
Maher: You know, I’ve got to say — I think, you know, if we’re ever going to get anything done in this country, we have to not hate everybody who doesn’t agree with us all the time. This is guy who to me is like the anti-Bush. Bush was the guy who said, ‘I don’t do nuance,’ remember? This guy does nuance on everything. I mean, the title of the movie, “The Known Unknown.” What is his quote there that you took and made a whole movie about? ‘There are things we know that we don’t know, things we don’t know that we’ — I couldn’t even fucking follow it. But Donald Rumsfeld is a guy who thinks about things.
Morris: I wouldn’t go that far.
Maher: He doesn’t think about things? He put out 20,000 memos in his time.
Morris: There is thinking about things and then there’s obfuscating and evading things.
Maher: Yeah, there’s some of that, but…
Morris: Some of that? What are you talking about? That’s all that there is. There is nothing more.
Maher: I disagree. I don’t see him as the worst. First of all, I don’t see him as a giant egomaniac. You asked him [about] the Iraq War. Would it have been better if we never went at all? He said, ‘time would tell.’ Most other people in the Republican Party say, ‘absolutely, no doubt. It was the greatest thing we’ve ever did.’ ‘I don’t know. We’ll see.’ That’s his view of a lot of things.
Morris: ‘Time will tell,’ what kind of an answer is that really?
Maher: That’s a real answer.
Morris: No, it isn’t. I’m very, very sorry.
Maher: Really, you mean history has never judged anything over more than 10 years?
Morris: Look, someone suggests that they may not like your policies, may not like the war. What do you say? You say, ‘well, let’s wait a while, say 100 trillion years and then maybe we’ll find an adequate justification for what we’ve done.’ Maybe it will all turn out. Maybe we won’t be here anymore.’
Maher: So there’s nothing in between 10 years and 100 billion years, you see?
Morris: A small amount.
Maher: Well, I mean, ok, I will not concede that point. But we can agree to disagree.
Maher also praised Rumsfeld’s view of how the Cold War ended, which again put him at odds with Morris.
Maher: Let me quote something else that you put him in the movie saying in 1989. He says something I was shocked, I never heard him say this. I don’t remember it. But it is something I say this all the time, which is that Reagan didn’t win the Cold War. He says that. He says lots of people won the Cold War. Adenauer won the Cold War. Truman won the Cold War. It was a policy of containment. I thought that was amazing for a Republican to say that Reagan didn’t win the Cold War. That’s what gets their dick hard.
Morris: The only reason he didn’t attribute it to Reagan is that he wanted to attribute it to himself.
Maher: Really? Well, you left that part out. I didn’t see that. Why are you saying that?
Morris: Because what I’m left with at the end of making this film, I always imagined that there’s something that I learned in all of this. What I’m left with is this strange smile.
Maher: He’s got a smile, you’re right.
Morris: A grin.
Morris: Often the inappropriate grin that is the tell — if you imagine a poker game that one gesture that reveals something behind it all, what hand your opponent is holding. Here I think it is just immense self-satisfaction.
Maher: Well, I don’t know about that, but you know what I did not like…
Morris: You’re going to disagree with everything I’ve say.
Maher: No, I mean, I’ve always thought, you know, of all the people in the Republican Party, I mean, you’ve got to choose your enemies, I don’t think he’s the worst.
Maher’s assessment of Rumsfeld was hardly all positive, however. Maher said that Rumsfeld’s comments on Vietnam in Morris’ film, for instance, made him “want to punch [Rumsfeld] in the head.”