Rumsfeld served in Bush’s Cabinet from the start of his first term in office in January 2001 through the end of 2006. He was a key figure in the Bush administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“On the morning of September 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld ran to the fire at the Pentagon to assist the wounded and ensure the safety of survivors,” Bush said in a statement. “For the next five years, he was in steady service as a wartime secretary of defense – a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honor.
“A period that brought unprecedented challenges to our country and to our military also brought out the best qualities in Secretary Rumsfeld. A man of intelligence, integrity, and almost inexhaustible energy, he never paled before tough decisions, and never flinched from responsibility,” Bush added.
Rumsfeld twice served as defense secretary, holding the key Cabinet post under former President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977. A former congressman and presidential candidate in his own right, he held a variety of roles under four presidents dating back to the Nixon administration.
Former Vice President Cheney, who was White House chief of staff under Ford, offered an emotional tribute along with his wife Lynne
“We are so sorry to learn that the world has lost Don Rumsfeld, but sorry most of all for the great empty space we know his passing has left in the lives of his family,” they wrote. “He was a great man, who excelled in so many ways, not only through his decades of distinguished public service, but as a private citizen. He lifted others up. We think of the bright, eager-to-learn young people from Central Asia that he brought to our house one day and imagine all the others who have an expanded view of the world thanks to the foundation that he and his beloved wife, Joyce, created.
“We think often about the huge change he made in our lives, the events and people we would never have known without him. So many memories, from world-altering events to the simple enjoyments of the Chesapeake, plus all the times that we laughed together, usually at ourselves. We will miss him.
Bush noted that Rumsfeld “brought needed and timely reforms to the Department of Defense” during his tenure as Pentagon chief.”
“As Commander in Chief, I especially appreciated how Don took his job personally and always looked out for the interests of our servicemen and women,” Bush said. “He was a faithful steward of our armed forces, and the United States of America is safer and better off for his service.
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“In a busy and purposeful life, Don Rumsfeld was a Naval officer, a member of Congress, a distinguished cabinet official in several administrations, a respected business leader – and, with his beloved wife, the co-founder of a charitable foundation. Later in life, he even became an app developer,” the former president added.
“All his life, he was good-humored and big-hearted, and he treasured his family above all else. Laura and I are very sorry to learn of Don’s passing, and we send our deepest sympathy to Joyce and their children. We mourn an exemplary public servant and a very good man.”
Rumsfeld’s family said he “was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.” He was 88 years old.