Donald Rumsfeld Spars With John Stossel Over Defense Spending

Journalist and columnist John Stossel was critical in his introduction of the former defense secretary.

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John Stossel got a little bit feisty Tuesday night in his introduction of Donald Rumsfeld as the keynote speaker at the 30th anniversary dinner party for the conservative newspaper The Washington Times. The former Secretary of Defense wasn’t impressed.

Instead of praising Rumsfeld, as keynote introductions often do, Stossel, an investigative journalist and libertarian columnist, said he didn't know why he was tasked with introducing Rumsfeld because "I'm very skeptical of our involvement in many parts of the world."

[Opinion: Are Cuts to the Defense Budget Necessary?]

Known as much for his criticism of government programs as his signature mustache, Stossel criticized the Department of Defense for spending too much money and continuing to have an uniformed presence in too many countries. "We're going broke. Can we afford to keep spending 600 billion dollars on our military?"

When Rumsfeld finally took the stage, the long-time politician began his speech with a good-natured jab at Stossel: "Nobody's perfect."

But after spending more than 15 minutes slamming President Barack Obama on foreign policy in the Middle East, Rumsfeld returned more aggressively to the issue of defense spending, saying it was a mistake to "blindly cut some 1 trillion dollars from the defense budget over the coming decade."

The controversial former secretary of defense­—who was responsible during the President George W. Bush years for the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—then directed his admonitions at Stossel.

"I must say, John, with respect to your introduction," he said, "there is no question that every big government bureaucracy is bloated and has waste." Rumsfeld argued that the United States had improved on defense spending, however, as the Kennedy and Johnson administrations of the 1960s had spent 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product, while the United States was spending only 4 percent today. Rumsfeld did not mention that the GDP has grown substantially since the 1960s.

"Any implication the monstrous debt and the monstrous deficits are a result of defense spending is just flat wrong... Go where the money is—it's in the entitlements," Rumsfeld finished, raising the volume of his voice as he blamed government entitlement programs for America's debt problem. "Not in defense." Members of the audience nodded in agreement.

When Stossel retook the stage, he introduced the next speaker without comment.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.