Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rumsfeld Article Creating Buzz

The most talked about article this week, outside of the Rush Limbaugh crowd, is Robert Draper's GQ expose of Donald Rumsfeld during his tenure as Secretary of Defense for the Bush Administration. I wish more officials would have agreed to use their names, but this is fascinating reading. The ten page article left me wanting more. We see Rumsfeld as a stubborn, controlling and ultimately unhelpful to the cabinet, staff and the president in many regards. (Read the article here.)


.... Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”

Rumsfeld replied by trotting out the ongoing National Guard deployments and suggesting that sending active-duty troops would create “unity of command” issues. Visibly impatient, Bush turned away from Rumsfeld and began to direct his inquiries at Lieutenant General HonorĂ© on the video screen. “From then on, it was a Bush-HonorĂ© dialogue,” remembers another participant. “The president cut Rumsfeld to pieces. I just wish it had happened earlier in the week.”

But still the troops hadn’t arrived. And by Saturday morning, says HonorĂ©, “we had dispersed all of these people across Louisiana. So we needed more troops to go to distribution centers, feed people, and maintain traffic.” That morning Bush convened yet another meeting in the Situation Room. Chertoff was emphatic. “Mr. President,” he said, “if we’re not going to begin to get these troops, we’re not going to be able to get the job done.”

Rumsfeld could see the writing on the wall and had come prepared with a deployment plan in hand. Still, he did not volunteer it. Only when Bush ordered, “Don, do it,” did he acquiesce and send in the troops—a full five days after landfall.
I must admit, there was a time when I greatly admired Rumsfeld for his no-nonsense press conferences. However, with history to judge, it appears that his appointment as Secretary of Defense was a disaster.

UPDATE: David Frum has some interesting comments on the article:
Conservatives should be focused instead on a very different question – an unpleasant one, but one absolutely essential to our indispensable, inevitable but still postponed reckoning with the legacy of the Bush administration. The question is: Why did Iraq go so very badly wrong – and why, having gone wrong, did it take so ruinously wrong for the administration to shift to a more successful course? Conservatives rightly take pride and comfort in the achievements of the surge. But the surge does not banish all the antecedent questions about Iraq. The surge may have rescued the American position in Iraq from total disaster, but nobody would describe the present situation in Iraq as anything like satisfactory.

Many, many writers have reported on this history. No definitive answer has ever been reached. Definitiveness has eluded writers in part because there is so much blame to go around. Yet there is something else too, a special factor: the mysterious personality of Donald Rumsfeld. More than any other figure in the administration, Rumsfeld is elusive, his decision-making opaque, his motives inaccessible.

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