“Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work — they don’t lead by command — you have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded — as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and it incrementally destroys your credibility — that clearly is a problem.”
Rumsfeld was referencing the unfolding Republican investigation into why the administration initially held that the Benghazi attacks, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, were the result of a protest over an anti-Muslim video that got out of control.
The White House later said publically that the attack came from a group of terrorists with ties to an al Qaeda-affiliated organization, but holds that its earlier assessment was based on the best available intelligence at the time.
Recent emails released by the administration show that the CIA played a significant role in taking references to an al Qaeda group out of the talking points it gave to White House officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill because an analysis of the attackers was still evolving.
Rumsfeld, who has been criticized for actions he took during Bush’s presidency, acknowledged that working in any administration is a difficult task and that it’s likely a “perfect storm” of problems right now for Obama within the White House.
“Anyone looking at those jobs has to know they’re tough jobs, and when you’ve got one big problem it’s a big problem,” said Rumsfeld. “When you’ve got two [problems], it’s like ten [problems]. And when you have three…it’s a perfect storm in there right now. And those jobs are very difficult.”
The Benghazi controversy is one of three that Republicans have been probing. Congress and the FBI launched separate investigations this week into the recent revelation that officials at the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative groups applying for tax exempt status.
And the Justice Department also came under fire when it was revealed that it secretly subpoenaed the phone records for more than 20 employees at the Associated Press in connection with its criminal investigation into a series of national security leaks.