"Well, you know, this, too, will pass," he told Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show.
Several general officers, including two with recent experience as division commanders in Iraq, have criticized Rumsfeld's management of the Pentagon and of the war, arguing that he should step down.
"I think about it and I must say, there's always two sides to these things, and the sharper the criticism comes, sometimes the sharper the defense comes from people who don't agree with the critics," Rumsfeld said.
He said he was pleased to see that retired Gen. Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who developed and executed the Iraq invasion plan, had rebutted the critics and expressed support for him. President Bush issued a strongly worded statement of support last Friday.
Asked by Limbaugh why certain retired generals had chosen to call publicly for his resignation, Rumsfeld replied, "Well, I just don't know. I can't climb into other people's minds." He noted that retired Adm. Vern Clark, a former chief of naval operations, had said publicly that Rumsfeld is a suitably tough-minded leader. Rumsfeld's critics have said he is arrogant and disregarded the advice of military officers.
"So I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld is to meet Tuesday at the Pentagon with a group of defense analysts, including retired military officers who appear regularly on TV networks to comment on defense issues. Rumsfeld spokesman Bryan Whitman said the session was not intended to present a defense of Rumsfeld's leadership style or policy decisions but instead is the latest in a series of meetings with influential private analysts.
Rumsfeld, who took office in January 2001, is one of the country's longer serving secretaries of defense.
Rumsfeld, who went to Princeton and served in the Navy, has had a long and varied career, including in investment banking, as a four-term member of the House, as an advisor to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and CEO of the drug giant G.E. Searle and two other companies.
Rumsfeld has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and at least 11 honorary degrees. In his official biography, Rumsfeld also lists some very early honors: his Eagle Scout award from 1947 and his All Navy Wrestling Championship, in 1956.