Friday :: Oct 24, 2003

Is Rummy Playing Chicken With Bush?

by Steve

One wonders if Donald Rumsfeld is playing a game of chicken with George W. Bush. As you know an internal memo of his hit the streets that undercuts not only his but also the Administration’s credibility in spinning how well things are allegedly going in Iraq. Now Rummy and his staff seem to have pissed off key GOP supporters on the Hill as well, and unnamed administration sources are putting the word out that W isn’t happy with him.

Yesterday Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News, who has an administration source from either Bush I or Bush II feeding him lately, reported that

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld angered the White House yesterday with a leaked memo questioning whether the U.S. was winning the war on terror.

"This has put Rummy in a bad spot," one Bush administration source said.

"Before this he had personality and policy problems," the source said. "Now he has a credibility problem because he's acknowledged that they've all been putting on a happy face about Iraq."

Now who would speak as a “Bush administration source” with the level of detachment to say that “they’ve all been putting on a happy face about Iraq”? Regardless, folks inside or close to the administration are trash-talking Rummy openly.

"The President isn't happy," but he won't fire Rumsfeld, a Bush official said.

Officials said sacking Rumsfeld would give the appearance of admitting that Iraq is as big a mess as his critics contend.

Bush officials told the Daily News the memo has further diminished Rumsfeld's standing at the White House by embarrassing Bush when his Iraq policy is under constant attack by Democrats and even some Republicans.

And Rummy’s own enemies inside the Pentagon are behind the leak, according to the Hill:

While the source of the leak was a prime topic in Washington political corridors yesterday, there was a broad consensus that the leaker was no friend of the embattled defense secretary.

"Rumsfeld has stepped on many toes at the Pentagon," a senior congressional source said, "and this was the revenge of the toes." (revenge of the toes! LOL!)

It sounds as if someone on the inside is trying to get Rummy to leave voluntarily, and yet Rummy knows that Bush won’t fire him for exactly the reasons stated above. So Rummy may be daring Bush to act. Yet in an earlier piece by DeFrank on October 10th, his same source came out and said that Bush was likely to sack both Rummy and Powell in a second term, and name Condi as Secretary of State. And should DeFrank be paid attention to? Well yes, he co wrote James Baker’s memoir of his time as Bush’s Secretary of State, and has been pursuing a Bush administration job.

Add to this that Rummy according to today’s NYT has worn out his welcome with Congress, specifically with key GOP Senators. And he still antagonizes them, it seems, for sport.

Still, White House officials have also made clear that they are increasingly frustrated and impatient with Mr. Rumsfeld, particularly after he publicly criticized the president's closest foreign policy adviser, Condoleezza Rice, earlier this month in an internal power struggle that the defense secretary made public.

A Republican who is close to the White House said the view there had been that Mr. Rumsfeld "went off the deep end" in his reaction earlier this month to Mr. Bush's decision to designate Ms. Rice as the overall coordinator of Iraq policy. "The worst thing that can happen in Washington is if you're a cabinet member, you think you're bigger than the president," the Republican said.

Senator Warner, a former secretary of the Navy who as chairman of the Armed Services Committee is the Pentagon's most powerful overseer, would not comment for this article. But he was described by other senators and senior Republican staff members as being particularly angry. One senior Republican Congressional official said that he himself had concluded that Mr. Rumsfeld's approach was doing harm to the White House and that he had become "a millstone around the president's neck."

"The Pentagon is not exactly Capitol Hill's favorite department anymore," said one prominent Republican staff member. "Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz just give off this sense that they know better than thou, and that they don't have to answer our questions."

In an interview on Thursday, Senator Ron D. Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, alluded to the Pentagon's problems with the Republican leadership: "Things aren't going very well with the secretary and the Hill, and he has been losing support among people with gavels in their hand."

On Wednesday, for example, Mr. Wolfowitz sent Mr. McCain a letter refusing to provide him with records on the Air Force's plan to lease 100 Boeing commercial jets as refueling tankers. Mr. McCain, who opposes the tanker plan as too expensive, had asked for details of the Pentagon's lobbying effort for the plan, but Mr. Wolfowitz responded that Congress had already been given enough information on the subject.

Mr. McCain's office said he would ask the White House to supply the information.

So Rummy is out there, pissing off not only Dems, but now GOP Senators, and has enemies inside the White House leaking comments to undercut him and inside the Pentagon who leak his internal memos for revenge. He spills the beans on internal doubts about how well the war is going, undercutting all of the “filter” line of argument that the White House had used to attack the media.

To top it off, in his leaked memo, he puts out there the idea that the Administration needs to do a better job of selling the effort and should possibly set up new structures to do this. This may have tipped off Administration plans to do exactly that, which was already revealed by Lt. Colonel Sam Gardiner in his study last week, where he outlined the White House-directed misinformation campaign to sell the war. Rummy let the cat out of the bag that confirmed the White House thinking on this.

So why is Rummy playing chicken? And doesn't it look interesting how the media ran two anti-Rummy stories in two different papers in two days, almost as if it was a coordinated campaign to bring someone down a few notches.

You know, kinda like what someone did to Joe Wilson?

Steve :: 12:30 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!