Nicholas Stix at Intellectual Conservative recommends against President Bush firing Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for largely the same reasons I argued against dumping VP Cheney in a column last July.
Taking out Rumsfeld would leave the President exposed to direct fire, would show that Bush is vulnerable to those most hostile to his administration, and would leave Rumsfeld’s successor chastened by the awareness of the price of aggressively doing his job.
Here is what I wrote about the advisability of Bush dumping Cheney:
But there’s a more fundamental reason Cheney shouldn’t be fired. While his role has been overstated — he’s not the de facto president — he is nevertheless an essential part of the governing team who has played a major role in national security decisions. He and the president, while not co-presidents, are seen as one, where the war on terror and Iraq policy are concerned.
President Bush’s removal of Cheney for other than health reasons would be tantamount to an admission by the president that his own national security policies have been flawed and that he has to change course. He would be sending a message of no-confidence in his own governance because if Cheney has been wrong or too hawkish, so has Bush. Democrats now clamoring for Cheney’s head would triumphantly portray his expulsion as complete vindication of all their opportunistic criticism of the war effort.
President Bush is not about to concede that he has been traveling the wrong course in the war by discharging the man who has helped him more than any other to navigate these treacherous waters the last three years. There won’t be any turning back now — and there shouldn’t be.
(Please indulge me. On those rare occasions where I said something profound it’s important that I quote myself. 🙂
But these parallel analyses bring me to another point. Stix concedes that Rumsfeld has made some mistakes and is vulnerable to certain criticisms but that those mistakes have nothing to do with the move to fire him. He wrote:
The man certainly has flaws, which include being deaf to any subordinate who has original ideas, and fails to sing along with his choir of admirers; and using an auto-signature machine to sign letters to the families of soldiers killed in action. And yet, as far as I can see, the new campaign to run the Secretary out of Washington on a rail — how many have there been? I’ve lost track — has nothing to do with any screw-ups of his.
The New York Times’ role in this is the most obvious: They have always hated Rumsfeld, because: 1. He is an aggressive, Republican advocate for the President’s policies; and 2. See 1.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of Stix’s analysis, but he is exactly right about the Times’ motives, except that I would actually add a second reason beyond “See number 1.” It is that it’s not an opportune time to go after Bush directly since he was just vindicated in the election. Bush’s critics can get more mileage in going after his surrogates, like Rumsfeld, and trash Bush just as effectively through this indirect method. It was this same strategy I wrote about with the Dump Cheney movement. They vilified Cheney as the de facto president so that criticizing him was, essentially, criticizing President Bush.
In the same way, trashing Rumsfeld is trashing Bush but without having to mention his name — a type of plausible deniability. This is not to say, of course, that the libs don’t independently loathe Rumsfeld and Cheney, which they most certainly do. These are two tough guys who refuse to play politically correct games and who dish back as much as they receive. You’ll remember Cheney’s coining of the new word, “Clymer,” and his colorful dressing drown of Patrick Leahy over painting him and the president as criminal liars. As for Rumsfeld, he simply refuses to suffer liberal fools — especially those in the Old Media — gladly.
And Stix is exactly right that Rumsfeld’s latest so-called gaffes have nothing to do with the move to dump him. They are merely excuses for those already hankering to dump him. Can you imagine how silly it is even to consider firing a Defense Secretary because he didn’t exhibit the proper sensitivity in a press conference? Or because he didn’t personally sign all the condolence letters? Give me a break. It is not as if people watching the press conference said to themselves: “I can’t believe Rumsfeld said that. That shows he is not handling this war correctly and must be fired.”
Rather, the people already predisposed to dump him saw it and said, “Excellent. Rumsfeld has finally stuck his foot in his mouth sufficiently to give us a damning sound bite that, while having nothing to do with his fitness as Defense Secretary, will enable us to incite anger and negativity toward him. We just might be able to use this throw away line to get rid of him.”
The truth is, as Rush has shown by playing the Rumsfeld clip in context, that Rumsfeld was not showing insensitivity. He was merely pointing out that we were trying to up-armor as many vehicles as we could — we don’t lack the commitment or the money, just the physical ability to do it as quickly as we would like. In the meantime we have to fight with the army and equipment we have.
Rumsfeld was not saying that he didn’t care what happened to our troops or that he was satisfied with the armor available to them. To the contrary, he was saying, “We do care deeply and we’ll do everything we can to protect you, but in the meantime we’ve got a serious job to do and we have to make do with what we have.”
Dumping Rumsfeld would be tantamount to an admission by President Bush that his policies and approach toward the war have been misguided and flawed. For perception purposes, as to Iraq, Rumsfeld is Bush. If Bush thinks his approach is flawed he should most certainly fire Rumsfeld. But he doesn’t and so he shouldn’t just because certain “Republicans” have now jumped on the dump-Rumsfeld bandwagon.
We are at war and this is, obviously, serious business. Donald Rumsfeld should be judged according to the job he’s doing and not whether he appears to be a recent graduate of the Dale Carnegie Institute. I know reasonable people can disagree about his job performance, but I stand with those who believe he has done a great job under the most difficult of circumstances. Firing him would be bad for the military effort and would embolden those who are trying to undermine President Bush and the war effort. For most of them, this isn’t about Rumsfeld at all, or even protecting our troops or fighting a smarter war, but undermining the president and promoting the antiwar agenda.