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You may recall the post linked earlier this week regarding Donald Rumsfeld's verbal exchange with Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez during an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee. Others have written about the meeting too. Although he ignored Sanchez' embarrassing performance Dana Milbank used page one ink on the Washington Post to take shots at the Sec Def:
Two dozen members of the House Armed Services Committee had not yet had their turn to question Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at yesterday's hearings when he decided he had had enough.
At 12:54, he announced that at 1 p.m. he would be taking a break and then going to another hearing in the Senate. "We're going to have to get out and get lunch and get over there," he said. When the questioning continued for four more minutes, Rumsfeld picked up his briefcase and began to pack up his papers.
The chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), apologized to his colleagues for a rather "unusual" situation.
With the Bush administration asking Congress this month to write checks for half a trillion dollars for the Pentagon, you might think the secretary of defense would set an accommodating posture on Capitol Hill. But, to paraphrase Rumsfeld's remark in December about the Army, you go to budget hearings with the defense secretary you have, not the defense secretary you might want or wish to have at a later time. And Donald Rumsfeld doesn't do accommodating very well.
Asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, Rumsfeld replied: "I am not going to give you a number."
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."
Rumsfeld's blunt manner was seen as refreshing four years ago, but these are different times. A few prominent Republican legislators have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, over his resistance to increased troop strength in Iraq, his perceived disparagement of the armed forces in December and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Yesterday, GOP lawmakers greeted him with doubts on a variety of matters including war spending, death payments and veterans' benefits.
Yet, for a man in need of friends on Capitol Hill, Rumsfeld was both bipartisan and bicameral in his gruff treatment of tough questioners.
More at the link, including some quoted Rumsfeld responses to Senators that would probably draw cheers from any American watching the proceedings. Personal favorite example: Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) then complained about long-term Army expenses being included in an emergency spending package. Rumsfeld said the matter "really is beyond my pay grade." When Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) observed that there are few positions beyond Rumsfeld's pay grade, Rumsfeld retorted: "Senator, I thought Congress was Article 1 of the Constitution."
Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom. This sort of candor is part of what makes Rumsfeld the most popular Secretary of Defense in history with the troops. But while Americans would stand and cheer the man, to Milbank this is proof that there's something wrong with Rummy. The proceedings probably further enraged Milbank and his WaPo superiors for no doubt reminding them of the numerous dimwitted colleagues Rumsfeld has exposed over the past several years, and they saw this as a chance to "get even".
But I don't need to defend the man, or even claim that Milbank's page one story was a seriously flawed bit of poorly disguised attack "journalism" - because House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter - who Milbank quoted out of context above - has already done so. The Chairman's response originally was in a letter to the editor of the WaPo, but when the paper wouldn't publish it the committee took the rare step of posting it (pdf file) on their own web page.
House Armed Services Committee (armedservices.house.gov) February 23, 2005
Public Statement By The Chairman Of The House Armed Services Committee
Hunter statement on Secretary Rumsfeld's recent appearance at the House Armed Services Committee and the inaccurate Washington Post coverage that followed
Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) made the following statement regarding Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's testimony on February 16th - and an erroneous Washington Post front page commentary the following day. A letter to the editor of the Post was submitted on the 17th but has not yet been published. In an effort to set the record straight in a timely manner, the letter is being released today.
"The February 17 front-page Washington Post Capitol Hill Journal piece, 'Secretary on the Offensive' was incorrect.
"Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hadn't 'had enough' when he left my committee's hearing. We had agreed in advance that the hearing would terminate after three hours because the secretary had another hearing commitment. Therefore, the article's suggestion that he got mad and left did a disservice to the truth and to the secretary. Further, Secretary Rumsfeld graciously invited the handful of members in line to ask questions to a private breakfast in the Pentagon in the next few weeks. Hardly the actions of someone discourteous.
"As for his style, the secretary answers questions forthrightly. Sometimes the correct and honest answer is 'I don't know.' Dana Milbank's focus on 10 seconds of exchanges left out the remaining three hours of Secretary Rumsfeld's expansive remarks on numerous complex topics.
"Secretary Rumsfeld is responsible for a war in two theaters, reshaping the 2.5 million defense force of the United States and preparing the nation to meet present and future security threats. His success should be judged on his professional competence, not innuendo. In my judgment, he has done an outstanding job."
It's not just bloggers that won't let reporters get away with "less than accurate" reporting these days. (And if those congressmen start blogging...)
The day when someone in the news could toss out a bomb and then retire smirking have gone down the bloggy gulch.
No more gatekeepers.
Hooray for a politician with the stones to set the record straight!Posted by mrupe at February 24, 2005 08:33 PM
It's ironic when politicians have to expose the media rather than the other way around. That's when you know that the radicals of the '60s have become the Establishment.Posted by Bruce at February 24, 2005 08:39 PM
Great article. I was wondering when someone was finally going to set the media straight. Rummy is too busy and doesn't really suffer fools lightly.
Republicans need to have a spine AFTER they are elected, also. :) It is past time for us to continue to set the record straight. Thanks.Posted by Rosemary at February 24, 2005 09:27 PM
Ignore Sanchez - a yellow-dog democrat friend of mine met her and now she won't leave them alone, constantly seeking money, musing about being Senator Sanchez. This die-hard demo friend of mine now feels like they have some personal insight into Sanchez - and they HATE her and cannot believe such a mediocrity is a Congresswoman. This same friend swooned over Clinton when he came to Orange County, CA - they love the Democratic party and still despise Sanchez.Posted by Californio at February 25, 2005 08:31 AM
Congressmen and senators blogging? What a concept (g).Posted by Lornkanaga at February 25, 2005 06:49 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(6) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)