Friday, March 25, 2005

Cong. Kirk and Secretary Rumsfeld: The New Trier Mafia

Cong. Mark Kirk [R- Highland Park, 10th Cong. Dist.] and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, parallels in style and substance?

After working in various administrative and campaign positions for different congressmen and also working as an investment banker, Don Rumsfeld got his real start in politics in 1962 when the 8th Cong. District became an open seat. In those days, the 8th included "Chicago's 50th Ward, Evanston, Skokie, Niles, and Cook County's other north and northwest suburbs stretching from the lake to Elgin." [See Carol Felsenthal's "The Don," Chicago Magazine, June, 2001].

Rumsfeld had grown up in Winnetka on the North Shore, attending Crow Island Middle School and New Trier High School. At 29, Rumsfeld ran in and won a two person Republican primary in the 8th Cong. District, with so much assistance from New Trier Alums and North Shore notables such as Dan Searle, Arthur Nielsen and Robert Galvin that Rummy's supporters were often referred to as the New Trier Mafia [See Felsenthal, Id.].

At that time, the 8th was so Republican that the Primary essentially was the general election, not unlike current Democratic Primaries in the City of Chicago. After seven years in Congress, Rumsfeld was persuaded by President Nixon in 1969 to give up his safe seat in the 8th to become the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity [an outgrowth of LBJ’s War on Poverty].

Always good at timing and at understanding the machinery and levers of power in government, Rumsfeld saw the Nixon demise coming and got as far from Nixon and DC as he could, being appointed Ambassador to NATO in Brussels in 1972. Three years later, after being recalled to Washington and serving in a few positions for President Ford, Rumsfeld, at 43, became the nation's youngest Secretary of Defense under President Ford.

Congressman Kirk, as we have discussed before, grew up on the North Shore, graduated from New Trier High School and then held a variety of positions in and around Washington, DC, including a three year stint as Chief of Staff for 10th Cong. District Congressman John Porter, and ran and won, at 41, the 10th Cong. Dist. seat in 2000. That district now includes the North Shore and a good portion of what was included in the 8th Cong. Dist., when Rumsfeld was its congressman.

Cong. Kirk, now 45, or so, through his prior activity in the military reserves and otherwise, has acquired a bit of a reputation as a specialist in military preparedness, intelligence and national defense issues.

Could Kirk follow the Rumsfeld model and be appointed Secretary of Defense, at say, 49, by a President Frist or a President McCain? Does Kirk have or could he acquire, over the next two years, sufficient congressional or administrative experience to do it sooner, say, at 47, with an appointment by President Bush?

Would Kirk take Paul Wolfowitz's old position in the Defense Department, if offered. That might be great experience for someone looking to become Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld said, last Sunday, to Stephanopoulous that he did not have anyone in mind for that position, yet. However, Rumsfeld did say one option was the businessman type with large department management experience, which is not exactly Cong. Kirk.

Compare and contrast the styles of Kirk and Rumsfeld, below.
Jeff Berkowitz: Let me just go quickly to the War in Iraq. Right now, we are spending-- how much would you say we spend per year, or over the last year in our military effort in Iraq?

Cong. Mark Kirk: I don’t know offhand—

Berkowitz: About a hundred billion dollars? Or in excess of that?

Kirk: The most recent supplemental [request to the budget] that the Congress adopted was 81 billion dollars for the efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the wider War on Terror.

Berkowitz: Now, is that an effort that you think the United States might have to sustain for the next year or two and could it sustain it and would you favor doing so?

Kirk: Well, hopefully, what we will do is rally the international community to support the democratic, newly elected government of Iraq. That’s why it was so important to see the positive statements from President Chirac in France, Chancellor Schroeder in Germany— now that the days of Saddam Hussein and his regime are over and we need to support the newly elected government whose President and Prime Minister, we are told, will be announced next week.

Berkowitz: Is there a timetable that you favor for withdrawing troops or do you think that the United States, at least for the next year or two, needs to keep a substantial number of troops in Iraq.

Kirk: I think that we need to make sure that the democratically elected government [in Iraq] is a success.

Berkowitz: One last thing, can I—[ Before Berkowitz could complete the question, he was advised by a Kirk staffer that the Congressman had to go and that the interview was over. Cong. Kirk stepped away from the camera].
Cong. Mark Steven Kirk [R- Highland Park, 10th Cong. Dist.] interviewed on March 22, 2005 after a program held at DePaul University to discuss issues related to the treatment of the military reserve, including their treatment by their employers after they are called to active duty as well their treatment by the government.
George Stephanopoulous: If you had actual intelligence that Osama Bin Laden was in Iran, do you think that the United States has the right just to go in and get him, without asking for permission.

Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld: Obviously you wouldn’t get permission.

Stephanopoulous: That’s my point.

Rumsfeld: And those are questions for the President of the United States.

Stephanopoulous: What would be your recommendation?

Rumsfeld: I give my recommendations to the President of the United States, not to George Stephanoupolous
ABC’s Sunday national news show, This Week, March 20, 2005
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at