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December 19, 2004
Rumsfeld Digs A Little Deeper (Updated)

In a development that hardly helps out the beleaguered Defense Secretary, Reuters reports that Donald Rumsfeld did not personally sign the sympathy notes sent to the families of American servicemen and women who died in Iraq. Lawmakers objected, with Senator Chuck Hagel mimicking John McCain's earlier statement of no confidence:

Rumsfeld acknowledged that he had not signed the letters to family members of more than 1,000 U.S. troops killed in action and in a statement said he would now sign them in his own hand. "This issue of the secretary of Defense not personally signing the letters is just astounding to me and it does reflect how out of touch they are and how dismissive they are," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I have no confidence in Rumsfeld," Hagel added.

More than in the kerfuffle relating to the uparmoring of Humvees, this issue gets closer to the true nature of the rupture between Rumsfeld and some GOP players. Rumsfeld has an abrasive and insensitive nature, which plays well among some supporters but comes across as arrogant and superior to his detractors. Unlike the armor, this issue has little nuance: if his office sent out sympathy cards under his name, he should have signed the notes himself. Apparently, George Bush took the time to sign his, and as Hagel noted, Rumsfeld has little excuse to put out less effort than the Commander in Chief.

Under normal circumstances, this story would amount to a nne-day wonder. However, with Rumsfeld already drawing fire from both sides of the aisle, this tone-deafness may well embarrass the White House into taking some action. The Bush administration issued a supportive statement, but this revelation of thoughtlessness can't help in putting down this minor GOP revolt.

UPDATE: Is it getting a little silly? Probably a lot silly. However, I took a quick poll amongst family members who normally believe the sun rises and sets on Rummy -- and they all were shaking their heads over this one. Consensus: if you send sympathy notes to families of dead soldiers with your name at the bottom, you'd better take the time to sign them. It's crass to take credit for sympathy notes you've never even seen.

UPDATE II: Hmmm. I appear to be outvoted -- even though I actually like Rumsfeld. Part of what I do here is analysis, and I think that this situation is rather fascinating, which is why I've written about it. I'm not advocating his removal at all, but I don't think Rumsfeld makes it very easy on George Bush and that's really my point here. So let me make myself clear on a couple of points, and then feel free to continue to beat me like a bongo drum in the comments (yes, I am a closet masochist):

* I think Rumsfeld has done a remarkable job in conducting the war on terror, and I want to see him continue to lead Defense throughout the second term.

* If that is to happen, then the White House needs to address the concerns of those GOP senators that appear to have issues with Rumsfeld, especially Lott and Coleman. I agree with y'all that Hagel, McCain, and Collins can be ignored, although not forever for McCain. The White House needs to insist on some party discipline from Frist and McConnell. We started seeing it yesterday -- finally. Doesn't anyone find it odd that the White House let Rummy twist in the wind as long as he did? I sure do.

* I disagree strongly with those who believe Rumsfeld is indispensable. I think he's the best man for the job, but no one is indispensable, and the Bush administration should have a succession plan in place in any case. What if Rummy dies of a heart attack tomorrow, or simply decides to retire? If that causes us to lose the war, then our war effort needs serious retooling.

* Yes, I think Patton should have been removed from command for slapping that soldier (two of them, actually), and in fact he was. He eventually got assigned a new command, but Eisenhower humiliated him for several months before he got a second chance. In the American armed forces, officers do not strike enlisted men, if for no other reason than enlisted men cannot hit back.

* Other than that, I pretty much agree with what's been written in the comments.

Let the beatings continue ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 19, 2004 8:41 PM

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» Now it's getting silly from Media Lies
The press is apparently digging furiously for anything they can find to undermine Secretary Rumsfeld. Now they've discovered that he didn't personally sign every single letter of condolence to the loved ones of soldiers who have lost their lives in t... [Read More]

Tracked on December 19, 2004 10:14 PM

» Watch out from Speed of Thought...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush on Monday brushed aside criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over his handling of the Iraq war, and said Rumsfeld would win over doubters on Capitol Hill... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2004 10:20 AM

» The saga continues from Media Lies
Captain Ed, responding to his commenters, clarifies his position on Rumsfeld. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with one of his statements. * If that is to happen, then the White House needs to address the concerns of those GOP senators that ... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2004 11:44 AM

» Targeting Rumsfeld from Abstract Musings
Old media, having failed to take down President Bush, now seems to have its sights set on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. First, came the up-armor non-story. Here's what one National Guardsman serving with the 278th in Northern Iraq thinks about ... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2004 8:36 PM

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