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December 17, 2004
And Now The Loyalists Spring To The Defense

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally got a show of support from GOP leaders in the Senate after taking a beating all week long from his own party. Senators Bill Frist and Mitch McConnell both spoke out in Rumsfeld's defense today:

"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," Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said in a written statement. "Most importantly he has the confidence of his commanders in the field and our commander in chief."

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP whip, said 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."

It certainly took Frist and McConnell long enough to speak up. Perhaps the eruption of dissatisfaction with Rumsfeld among the Republican ranks took them by surprise, but after Wednesday the momentum should have been obvious to both. Quelling the public revolt should have been their highest priority; instead, they appear to have dithered until the end of the week, when their statements of support would receive less attention.

In some cases, this would be called "damning with faint praise."

If Frist and McConnell seriously wish to support Rumsfeld, then they need to get Coleman and Lott back on board. McCain, Hagel, and Collins can be disregarded. As whip, that is McConnell's job, and as Senate Majority Leader, it's Frist's job to get McConnell on the case. The lack of urgency in their response suggests that their enthusiasm for the task leaves something to be desired. Bush needs to call both men to the White House -- and the woodshed -- and get the troops back in line. If he can't, and Frist and McConnell fail, then the second term risks failure even before it begins.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2004 11:43 PM

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