February 22, 2005

The Buck Stops Here?

In a recent, puckishly titled, article MSNBC states "Rumsfeld plays offense on the Hill". Rumsfeld causes offense on the Hill may be more appropriate. Somehow his testimony before the House and the Senate were scheduled for the same day. The House Armed Services Committee wasn't nearly finished with him yet when he bolted out, across the rotunda, to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Not only was his testimony brief, it was also useless and obstructive.

In his opening statement he implicitly chided Congress for "an increasingly casual regard for the protection of classified documents and information."

Asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "I am not going to give you a number."
Actually, they're being polite. The quote about the number of insurgents was really "I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." Seriously.

Did he care to voice an opinion on efforts by U.S. pilots to seek damages from their imprisonment in Iraq? "I don't."

Could he comment on what basing agreements he might seek in Iraq? "I can't."

How about the widely publicized cuts to programs for veterans? "I'm not familiar with the cuts you're referring to."

How long will the war last? "There's never been a war that was predictable as to length, casualty or cost in the history of mankind."

In Europe last week, Rumsfeld joked that he was no longer the "old Rumsfeld" who disdainfully referred to France and Germany as "Old Europe."

But Wednesday, he made it clear that the new Rumsfeld would not be a softy. When he scolded Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) by saying she incorrectly described his role, Tauscher inquired: "Is that old Rumsfeld talking to me now?"

"I think so," Rumsfeld said, smiling.

"I'd prefer new Rumsfeld," she requested.

"No, you don't," he said.

When I first read about this at Rude Pundit I was just thinking "What a jerk!". After letting it percolate for a couple days (sorry about that) I started seeing it as a symptom of a real systemic problem. Ultimate decision making power rests with the President (as he loves to remind us). People leaving the administration have spoken of George as being enthusiastic for all kinds of things that end up not happening. "Mars and Onward" for one example. Either he's got a short attention span, he's a really good actor, or he's not really in charge of the ship. The money keeps flowing toward the war, everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Why does George keep Rumsfeld around? If you remember Iran-Contra, you remember that everything came down to "Who knew what, when?". El Presidente needs Rumsfeld, and all the other loose cannons, to act independently and keep him from knowing too much. Rumsfeld depends on people like Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski for the same service. Once the buck reaches level of Spc. Charles Graner someone should start asking questions. Luckily, this is the era of personal responsibility. I guess Graner's trial and Bush's election are the same thing; an "accountability moment". People think torture is bad, but failing to prevent torture is perfectly understandable. Lets call it "trickle-up accountability".

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