Rummy In Hot Water?
Reuters is reporting on a leak from a senior administration official (SAO) late this afternoon claiming that Bush is unhappy with Rummy not fully briefing him about the Iraqi prisoner scandal. As I said in my earlier post, Bremer knew about the problems since December. Rummy gave what the White House called today a “general” briefing on the matter to the president in January, with the president not following up on this issue until the pictures, the “60 Minutes II” piece, and Hersh’s New Yorker story came out.
Now the story from the SAO this afternoon is that Bush is unhappy with Rummy for not telling him everything back in January. Except that how many times has Bush talked directly with Bremer since January? You mean that somehow Bush was truly clueless all this time, and now wants to put it off onto Rummy’s head?
Who would be the SAO leaking this story? And note the quote from the GOP congressional staffer speculating that Rummy is walking the plank over this.
McClellan, at an morning briefing, said Bush "absolutely" had full confidence in Rumsfeld. But in an afternoon briefing he sidestepped a question as to whether Bush was satisfied with the steps Rumsfeld had taken to deal with the crisis.
"He believes that they are taking appropriate action to address the matter, and that they're looking fully at whether or not there's a systemic problem beyond the actions of the few that we have already been made aware of," he said.
Bush was asked about Rumsfeld's handling of the crisis in the interview with Alhurra.
"Of course I've got some confidence in the secretary of defense, and I've got confidence in the commanders on the ground in Iraq," he said.
Rumsfeld is due to discuss the prison scandal in front of the Senate on Friday in what Republican aides said was likely to be a "brutal" hearing.
One Senate Republican aide said some senior administration officials thought Rumsfeld would lose his job over the matter, although few lawmakers were openly calling for Rumsfeld's departure.
"He'll be in the hot seat, there's no doubt about it," an aide said. "You rarely see people on both sides of the aisle this intense."
The problem for Bush is that if he cans Rummy over this, he has to can Bremer too. And if he cans Rummy, who the hell will run the Pentagon who has clean hands himself? Not Wolfowitz, and not Douglas Feith. Bush never seems to can anyone, even if they undercut him. And he uses Cheney to fire folks for ideological disagreements, like O'Neill. So this could be nothing more than an attempt to see if Rummy goes on his own.