The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, December 17, 2004  

High Tide for This Slide

The Associated Press reports today that, despite the story’s headline -- “GOP Senators Spring to Defend Rumsfeld” (by David Espo) -- a growing number of Republican senators are sharply criticizing the performance of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, though none yet has called for his ouster or resignation.

The A.P.’s Espo reports, “The increased criticism from Republicans also coincides with the aftermath of Rumsfeld’s encounter with troops in Kuwait who complained about long deployments and a lack of armored vehicles and other equipment.

Secretary Rumsfeld’s Republican critics include Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.), who recently told a Biloxi, Miss., audience, “I’m not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld. I don’t think he listens enough to his uniformed officers.” Sen. Lott, the A.P. reports, said President Bush should implement personnel changes at the Pentagon within the coming year.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also has raised concerns. She released a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld asking why the Army had not moved more aggressively to produce fully armored Humvees for troops at war in Iraq, noting she had raised the same neglected issue at a Senate hearing months ago.

And there’s Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who the A.P. reports said recently, “I don’t like the way he has done some things. I think they have been irresponsible.”

Among Sen. Hagel’s publicly stated examples of Secretary Rumsfeld’s irresponsibility: “We didn’t go into Iraq with enough troops. He’s dismissed his general officers. He’s dismissed all outside influence. He’s dismissed outside counsel and advice. And he’s dismissed a lot of inside counsel and advice from men and women who have been in military uniform for 25 and 30 years.”

And lest we forget, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he had “no confidence” in the defense secretary.

Publicly defending Secretary Rumsfeld are Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Sen. Frist, according to the A.P., said in a written statement: “I am confident that Secretary Rumsfeld is fully capable of leading the Department of Defense and our military forces to victory in Iraq and the war on terror. Most importantly he has the confidence of his commanders in the field and our commander in chief.”

Sen. McConnell, again according to the A.P., said Secretary Rumsfeld “is an excellent secretary of defense and we are fortunate to have a man of his courage and vision serving the president at this critical time.”

Let’s see. By my count that makes four against (Sens. Collins, Hagel, Lott, and McCain) to just two in favor (Sens. Frist and McConnell), at least among those brave enough to speak out.

A two-to-one margin against. Hardly the stuff of a vote of confidence, one would think.

[Post-publication addendum (December 18): See also “Dem[ocrat]s Want Answers From Rumsfeld on Armor,” by Maura Kelly Lannan, the Associated Press, in the Washington Post: “The incoming deputy leader of Senate Democrats demanded answers Saturday from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as to why U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lack protective equipment for themselves and their vehicles. ‘We can, and we should, armor every Humvee and every truck our troops use in Iraq and Afghanistan,’ Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in his party’s weekly radio address. ‘No more excuses, no more delays. We can save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of serious injuries.’ . . . ‘The Pentagon says the lack of protective equipment is a matter of “logistics,”’ Durbin said. ‘No, it’s not. It’s a matter of leadership.’”]

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