Good advice from bad people
Zac Bissonnette believes even horrible people like Donald Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich, and Bernie Madoff are occasionally worth listening to.
“It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.”
—Donald Rumsfeld, 1974
Donald Rumsfeld was fond of circulating his own lists of folksy advice to his subordinates back when he was head of President Ford’s transition team and later as a White House chief of staff.
Unfortunately, even the best-laid aphorisms couldn’t save Rumsfeld from a string of legacy-ruining blunders during his service as President George W. Bush’s secretary of defense. On February 7, 2003, Rumsfeld spoke to troops and explained that the conflict in Iraq they had just begun would not last long. “It is unknowable how long that conflict will last,” he said. “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
With Rumsfeld leading the charge, the entire Bush administration seemed to have been deluded about the cost and length of the war. For his efforts, Time magazine named Rumsfeld one of the ten worst cabinet members in U. S. history. The combat mission in Iraq didn’t officially end until 2010.
"Truth is easier to remember than fiction. The reason that lie detectors work is that the act of lying creates a physical reaction in your body: your pulse quickens, your blood pressure increases, and often you begin to sweat—all signs of stress. Clearly your body does not think that lying is good, so imagine what it might be doing to your soul. It is important not only to speak the truth but also to stand up for the truth when others are wrong."
—Newt Gingrich, 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours
Gingrich, in a testament to his lack of shame, provided his integrity advice in a book published more than a decade after the scandals that led to his downfall from his role as Speaker of the House—and a few years before his improbable rise as, ever‑so‑briefly, a legitimate contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Two affairs had led to two divorces—one of which was ongoing as he ripped President Clinton for his marital infidelities—and a
House ethics investigation had undermined his tenure as Speaker. During the 2012 campaign, allegations about his ties to the mortgage industry dogged him. When he denied any lobbying experience, Congressman Barney Frank called him “a lobbyist and a liar.”
In an interview with CBN, Gingrich explained his past infidelities with a pitch-perfect humblebrag: “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”
"The best chance for the average investor is to put money in an index fund."
Bernie Madoff is infamous as the mastermind behind the largest Ponzi scheme in world history. His risky and unsuccessful trading strategies and his efforts to cover them up with falsified trading records that showed high, steady, risk-free returns lured in sixty-five billion dollars in investments from some of the smartest, most sophisticated investors in the world. And yet, when he actually took a moment to give personal finance advice after his fall from grace, he provided wisdom that everyone should follow: low-cost index mutual funds are the best option for most investors, and, if more financial advisors and journalists told people that, Americans’ retirement portfolios would be a lot healthier.
Indeed, if Bernie Madoff somehow becomes the one to convince people to pursue simple, low-cost investment strategies like buying and holding index funds, he will have done far more good than evil in his time on earth.
My old friend Gareth Branwyn is the former Editorial Director of MAKE. He was also the senior editor at bOING bOING print, a section editor at Mondo 2000, and a Wired contributing editor for 12 years. Gareth has also written and edited over a dozen books. His most recent book, a combo best-of collection and […]
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