Here is the least surprising news since W got re-elected. He is standing by Donald Rumsfeld.
Of course he is.
And I don’t say that just because of W’s much discussed focus on loyalty (to his team and most of all, to his own decisions, one of which was to re-up Rummy for at least part of his second term).
Think about what the lawmakers from across the political spectrum are criticizing Rumsfeld for. This is not just about a poorly handled press conference when a soldier asked an obvious and longstanding question. Rummy has been brushing off these kinds of questions with quirky Rummyisms since he first took over the Pentagon. And it really doesn’t make any difference that this particular question came directly from the mouth of someone who is serving in Iraq. When you’re the Secretary of Defense, every question you answer is first and foremost an answer for the troops in harm’s way.
Do you really think GOP lawmakers and even chickenhawk neocons are really that upset with Rumsfeld because of an answer he gave during a press conference? This is a guy who has been doing their bidding and carrying out their political vision for four years.
The problem here is that the vision did not meet the reality.
Why would Donald Rumsfeld insist on using a smaller force in Iraq than most experts advised? Because he believed in the neocon vision. Get Saddam. Get rid of his top henchmen. Be welcomed with open arms. Democracy flourishes. Donald Rumsfeld’s major crime was that he listened to the wrong advice. And now those who conceived the plan are looking to blame him for the fact that their thinking was off from the start.
And then there is the other bucket of Republicans like John McCain who have long believed that the last couple of years have been a military disaster masterminded by those who have little respect for the men and women who actually have to put their lives on the line. This bucket of people have been anxiously waiting until the end of the election to put the squeeze on Rummy. They waited because they know that politics trumps everything else in Washington and that winning an election is far more important than standing up for the troops in the field. The press conference merely gave them their first opening to voice a long held opinion.
President Bush is basic guy with a pretty consistent set of ideals. He knows that Rummy is his guy. He knows that Rummy carried out the precise vision that he bought into. Bush believed that we needed a small force in Iraq. Bush ordered the memos on torture and stretched the limits on presidential power. To fire Rumsfeld would be tantamount to admitting that the major set of policy decisions made during his first term added up to a massive failure.
It really is that simple.
Think about the content of the question asked by the soldier during that press conference. It was about the lack of armor on Humvees and other vehicles.
Of course we’ve been slow to get more armor onto these vehicles. The decision-makers in the administation didn’t believe we’d ever need that armor (or even this many of the vehicles for that matter). They never believed that this part of the war would happen. The Veep himself repeatedly insisted that we’d be welcomed with flowers. These guys didn’t believe that this part of the war would happen even after it was already happening.
Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t the only one who expected a bouquet.