Plenty of people thought Donald Rumsfeld was race-baiting on Monday night when he used the phrase “trained ape” to criticize the Obama administration. What seems clear is that the former defense secretary was using one of his favorite phrases.
During an appearance on Fox News, Rumsfeld spoke about the failure to establish a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan.
“A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement,” he said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”
But Rumsfeld does not appear to have been specifically condemning President Obama over the status of forces agreement. Right before the “trained ape” line, he levied his criticism at a fairly broad target.
“This administration, the White House and the State Department have failed to get a status of forces agreement,” Rumsfeld said.
Only a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld employed the same word choice when he criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during an interview with right-wing shock jock Mark Levin.
“I think I’d kind of rank [John Kerry] above his predecessor, who I can’t think of a single thing that was accomplished,” Rumsfeld told Levin. “A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement.”
Rumsfeld also used the phrase repeatedly during his time in the Bush administration.
“A trained ape can know an awful lot of what is going on in this world, just by punching on his mouse for a relatively modest cost,” he said while on a trip to Europe in 2001.
During a July 2001 press conference, Rumsfeld said that a “trained ape can figure out that over the coming period, more people are going to have exceedingly powerful weapons, weapons more powerful than ever in the history of the world, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons.”
Moments later, Rumsfeld joked about the phrasing.
“Strike when I said ‘trained ape,'” he said to laughs. “An untrained ape should know that.”
And Rumsfeld’s comments on Monday hardly represent his most infamous use of the phrase. Here he was in 2002, making the administration’s case for war in Iraq.
“There’s no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that,” he said.