Bill Steigerwald

Ace GQ magazine correspondent Lisa DePaulo this summer scored an exclusive close encounter with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a man of power not known for letting feature writers from New York or anywhere else invade his private life. DePaulo flew with “Rummy,” as she calls him, by private jet to Taos, N.M., where she spent a day observing and questioning him on his ranch. DePaulo’s entertaining, illuminating and politically neutral profile, which appears in the October GQ -- under the headline “Off the Record With Don Rumsfeld" -- hits newsstands next week but already is posted on GQ’s Web site. I debriefed DePaulo on Thursday, Sept.13 by telephone from her home in Manhattan:

Q: How did you get this scoop -- this first up-close-and-personal access with Donald Rumsfeld since he resigned?

A: I’m still not quite sure. I think the little stars were in alignment. First of all, I’m not a Pentagon reporter; I’m not a war reporter. I don’t pretend to be. I think he may have been intrigued by that, because one of the things I made pretty clear from the beginning was that I wanted to capture "Rummy the Man" -- what it’s like to be Donald Rumsfeld, especially today. I really didn’t want to go into it with just 20 questions on Iraq and nothing else. I wanted a sense of him.

I think the context of it was appealing to him. GQ is doing this huge, 50th anniversary issue and we wanted to focus on a handful of truly iconic men -- people who have been incredibly influential for the last half century but are still incredibly relevant today. Rummy was obviously on that wish list, so I think he liked the context of that a lot. There was a lot of wooing involved, because this is not a guy who does this kind of thing. The first time I met him was at Dulles Airport that morning.

Q: They didn’t suspect that you were part of some sort of East Coast liberal conspiracy to trick or trash him?

A: I think one thing they were really clear about was that I do not have a political agenda when I write. I’m not on a side. I try to capture the personality regardless of the party. I’m not a crazy liberal; I’m not a crazy conservative. I’m a writer. And that was also somewhat in my favor.

Q: It’s not like you’re not a Bush-hater or -lover or an anti-war maniac?

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..