Erickson got a call from a Rumsfeld staffer. “He said, ‘The secretary has been having this guy’s work printed out for him for his regular daily briefing package, and he would really like to see if this guy, given his background and expertise in the military, would help write his memoir,’ ” Erickson recalls. “I fell over laughing and said: ‘One, not a guy. Two, not in the military.’ ”

Rumsfeld needed someone with the chops to turn his vast personal archive into a book—in other words, an academic simpatico with his politics. Coates fit the bill. She describes her four years working on Known and Unknown, Rumsfeld’s 800-page autobiography, as a crash course in foreign policy. “His life goes from Pearl Harbor to 9/11 and beyond, so that was a tutorial,” she says. As she wrapped up the project in 2011, she was planning to return to art history full-time. Then a friend from RedState, Chip Roy, called to tell her that his boss, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was assembling a last-minute presidential campaign—was she interested in serving as foreign policy adviser?

Make this your must read of the day.