DAVID DUNNING: Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about “unknown unknowns.” It goes something like this: “There are things we know we know about terrorism. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are things that are unknown unknowns. We don’t know that we don’t know.” He got a lot of grief for that. And I thought, “That’s the smartest and most modest thing I’ve heard in a year.”
Just to keep the record straight, people were laughing at Rumsfeld, because he only discovered "unknown unknowns" when it was completely self-serving to do so. There was nothing he didn't know before the Iraq war became an obvious disaster. Before the war, he told us that we knew Saddam had WMD, we knew he was a real threat to the U.S., we knew he was assisting Al Qaeda, and we knew that the war would be easy and over in a matter of weeks.
Rumsfeld dismissed anyone who doubted the wisdom of starting a second war while we were still fighting in Afghanistan. Not only did he ridicule them, he typically accused them of treason for giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemy.
Rumsfeld was neither smart nor modest in his answer. He was just attempting to deflect responsibility for his failures.