November 9, 2006

"Is he stepping down? You bet. Does he admit defeat? Not by a long shot."

"Is the country going to miss the way he acted smarter than everyone else and often preempted media questions by interrogating himself as a rhetorical device? Sort of -- the way you might miss your father's spankings."

Losing Donald Rumsfeld -- the style perspective.

I always enjoyed his rhetorical style, but some people haaaated it. Like Calvin Trillin:
[H]e has been amazed at Rumsfeld's ability to be at once brashly know-it-all and disarmingly homespun. "It was a wonderful mixture of arrogance and 'Aunt Harriet' language" like goodness gracious, Trillin says. "I don't think anybody can match that."

... Trillin writes that Rumsfeld conducted his press briefings "as if trying patiently to explain the obvious to a class of slow third-graders. (Might you prefer to be briefed by someone less arrogant and condescending? Yes. Do we always get what we want? Of course not.)"
I like sharp, colorful characters on the public scene. But if you don't approve of what someone is doing, too much style is irritating as hell. Presumably, the new guy will present a blander image, part of the whole new program of making everybody feel better about everything.

Will the new guy do anything different? We shall see.

34 comments:

Edward said...

Yeah, I agree. The one adjective that definitely seems suited to Robert Gates is “bland.”

Don’t get me wrong. I wish Gates all the best, and I’m withholding judgment of him for the time being.

But “bland” most definitely does seem to fit.

But, then again, aren’t CIA chiefs supposed to be somewhat bland and inconspicuous?

MadisonMan said...

He was a very quotable and watchable character, yes. So in that respect, he'll be a tough act to follow.

But maybe two years of bland is what the country needs after the past -- what -- decade plus? of partisan rancor.

David said...

Our enemies and so-called allies are giddily looking forward to a life without Don Rumsfeld. A measure of a man can be determined by the strength of his enemies and the weakness of his friends!

As ever, be careful what you wish for! In the enemies mind this is seen as one more step on the road to dhimmitude and a sign of American renewed interest in European style foreign policy.

Interesting that the army of lawyers present during elections past seem to have disappeared. Close as the elections were in many races there are no complaints about voting machines, slashed tires, or stolen elections.

mikeski said...

"[...]conducted his press briefings "as if trying patiently to explain the obvious to a class of slow third-graders[...]"

That comparison's pretty unfair to slow third graders.

Alan said...

"Bland" is one thing Dr. Gates is not. We Texas Aggies are quite upset at the loss of him as president. He took on several moribund initiatives and moved them squarely forward. He's one of the few "outsiders" to come in to Texas A&M and truly understand the place, and he got several "warring" parties to start pulling in the same direction. He is a "doer", and I suspect that if anyone is going to be able to clean up at least some of this mess, he's the guy who will do it.

Goesh said...

All I know is I wouldn't want to be a Sunni in Iraq. It doesn't matter if Gates is part Patton, part Alexandar the Great, no money, no troops on Iraqi soil. I just wonder if al jazeera will cover the Shi'ite recriminations as thorouhgly as they did the invasion and occupation? Can we acticipate any mass beheading videos? Yup, them Sunnis got no oil, got no majority, got no benefactor and were the favored people with all the good jobs. Hell! We haven't seen any real old fashioned slaughter since Rwanda and the machete work done there.

Zeb Quinn said...

As SecDef Rumsfeld was the quintessential been there, done that man. By the time Bush took office Rummy never had to be there at all. He was there for one reason and one reason only: to do things right. At least in his own mind, with no other agendas whatsoever, which is probably why Bush trusted him so much.

Nor did he suffer fools gladly, which is why his detractors, while maybe not exactly legion, where nevertheless ubiquitously out there, wanting to deflate him, if not to exact some measure of payback.

No matter how qualified he was, it was clearly time for a change. In fact, a little beyond time. Bush's timing was atrocious. This should have happened in July. I think Bush's judgment was clouded by a belief that the critics who wanted Rummy gone were simply nursing petty personal or partisan grudges rather than being motivated by sincere, objective, and substantive criticism. Bush didn't want to give the impression that he was yielding to these yipping toy poodles, and so Bush stuck by Rummy longer than he should have.

Dale B said...

I really dislike the rhetorical device of self interrogation. It's really distracting. I prefer that you just say what you have to say.

Internet Ronin said...

I will miss Donald Rumsfeld's press conferences. Sure, he could be arrogant and condescending, but that was only because so few of the reporters working the beat were capable of asking intelligent questions, thus Trillin's complaint about explaining the "obvious to a class of slow third-graders." Sounds about right to me.

Was it time for him to go? Long past time, IMO, BWDIK? I'm not an expert. Will the new guy be any better at resolving the problem? I hope so, but, as he is a former CIA director, and a Baker-buddy, I'm not counting on it.

Edward said...

A caller to C-SPAN this morning made a really hilarious comment about Gates.

The fact that Gates comes from Texas really scares her, she said.

She must have been referring to the fact that Gates has been president of Texas A&M University for the past few years.

I don’t like stereotyping people based on where they come from, but I still thought her remark was super funny.

Aren’t conservatives stereotyping Nancy Pelosi in the same horrible way, based on the fact that she comes from “scary” San Francisco?

And there’s no denying that Republicans have a stranglehold on Texas politics, much like the stranglehold on San Francisco politics that conservatives like to attribute to Democrats.

pst314 said...

"Might you prefer to be briefed by someone less arrogant and condescending?"

A journalist complaining about arrogance makes as much sense as a murderer objecting to a brawl during a baseball game.

Anonymous said...

Donald Rumsfeld should be in jail. People like him make me sick.
He's a War Pig.
This talk of his "style" is revolting.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Whatever happened to Lieberman as Defense Secretary?

tjl said...

"He's a war pig."

Thank you, R.S.Buck, for your insightful analysis based on obvious expertise in military affairs. It's always enlightening when someone adds as much as you have to the discussion.

Bissage said...

When it comes to War Pigs, I guess there's no accounting for taste.

Kids, say "no" to drugs.

Joe said...

1) Changing Rumsfeld yesterday was absolutely brilliant politics on part of Bush. He simply out maneuvered Pelosi and Reid. The one common element of the Democrats concerning Iraq was that Rumsfeld had to go; that that he has, the lack of genuine consensus amongst the Democrats will become glaring.

2) Rumsfeld was disliked by senior and retired career officers not because of Iraq, but because he really was reconfiguring the US Military from a stodgey cold-war machine, adept at refighting World War II. He was axing programs held near and dear to the hearts of these traditionalists. I don't think he went far enough, but I'm not sure he could have.

(The military has always been very traditionalist and change averse. For example, they fought using aircraft so strongly it took much longer than it should have before they were used effectively, especially in the role of close ground support.

The US Military is still far too addicted to the heavy tank and the submarine.)

Slac said...

Rumsfeld initially reminded me of one of my old football coaches, although he ended up being very tame. I was actually disappointed that he was not more aggressive, more piercing. Instead, he pussy-footed around, almost whining, "oh, this war is hard and confusing!"

Then again, I'd find it hard and confusing, if I didn't know who we're at war with either.

Maybe war would be easier if, I don't know, congress declared war on someone?

Jon Swift said...

Rumsfeld was the best Secretary of Defense since Robert McNamara.

dreamingmonkey said...

It is a desperate stretch to try to spin this as "brilliant maneuvering on Bush's part." You guys will say Bush is brilliant no matter what he does. At bottom, firing Rummy is a political concession to the democrats and, by extension, to the majority of the voting public. It's not "outmaneuvering" when you give the other side what they want. Furthermore, as I understand it many, many people on the Bush side, among them Condi Rice, have wanted to get rid of Rummy for a long time. Not to mention the military, and the entire "old guard" republicans from Bush I's cabinet who never liked him or any of the other neocons. It seems like the only person who was backing Rumsfeld unconditionally has been Dick Cheney.

If anything, this move helps the Democrats because it allows them to drop the combative rhetoric, which deflects all the "so what's your plan, huh?" questions that they haven't been able to answer.

And the installation of Robert Gates is a decisive step away from the neocon ideology that got us into the war in the first place. Remember them? Gates is not a neocon. Rumsfeld was an ideologue, along with his whole gang, and it always amazed me how a bunch of skeptical conservatives could get on board with a bunch of utopian visionaries.

Finally, while I understand the logic of stripping down the military and the traditional WWII model for certain types of military actions, could anything be stupider then designating a "lean, mean fighting machine" to be an occupation force?? That just doesn't make sense. To me, it suggests that Rumsfeld and friends actually believed their rhetoric about the liberators being greeted with flowers.

You can call it a maneuver or as someone said in another thread "throwing the dems a bone" but I am thrilled to get rid of that maniac. Now maybe the conversation can move beyond the meaningless poles of "stay the course" and "bring home the troops" and can focus on actually laying the groundwork for the long process of getting some kind of reasonably tolerable outcome to this whole affair that will be in the interests of our national security and not Dick Cheney's ego.

chickenlittle said...

Edward said:

"much like the stranglehold on San Francisco politics that conservatives like to attribute to Democrats"

How about the "stranglehold" that two bay area white women have on California's representation in the senate?

As Governor Schwartzegger cannot be reelected again, I hereby nominate him to challenge Barbara Boxer in 2010!

Anonymous said...

At bottom, firing Rummy is a political concession to the democrats and, by extension, to the majority of the voting public.

Yeah, whatever. But I think this guy nailed it:

http://large-regular.blogspot.com/2006/11/rumsfeld-interview-large-regular-was.html

Rummy: Nobody saw this move coming yesterday. Nobody was prepared. It was a brilliant shifting of weight. Yesterday was supposed to be the Democrats big day. They were all going to wear new suits and dresses and give speeches congratulating themselves and talking about how they were going to fix the country. Instead all the news programs spent that time speaking about my resignation and today all the print media will be talking about me and my successor. The Democrats can't even complain because they have been practically begging for my resignation. By the time this dies down - nobody will want to look at their new suits or pretty dresses and they sure won't want to hear their flowery speeches because the time would have been well past that. The bonus is that the Main Stream Media doesn't even see how they were used. Brilliant move by the President.

Snip

When it comes time to vote on Bob Gates by that time his confirmation will be a referendum on the war. A vote for Bob Gates will be a vote for staying the course. A vote against Bob Gates could be spun as a vote that keeps me in office longer and to many on the left I'm the ultimate bogeyman. Its a lose-lose for any Democratic Senator who plans to run in 2008. And the funny thing is as the hearings are going on just remember that the Democrats practically begged for this to happen.

Sloanasaurus said...

It is a desperate stretch to try to spin this as "brilliant maneuvering on Bush's part." You guys will say Bush is brilliant no matter what he does. At bottom, firing Rummy is a political concession to the democrats

I agree. Victory in the war on terror now depends on making democrats feel like they are providing a change of direction - that is what the voters want. In summary, the voters want the democrats to be involved in Iraq.

I know many partisans will be unhappy with the Dems getting any credit for victories in the war on terror, but I think it's better for the country in the long run for Republicans to share victory in the war with the Dems. This will alleviate the partisan feelings of Bush getting political capital from the victory and using the political capital for the conservative domestic agenda (such as making abortion illegal). Most sane people realise that this is BS as people forget such pleasantries quckly, but many partisan dems still fear it.

Now you will see a lot of lip service like Dems working with Republicans on the war... Dems seeming to get some concessions from Bush on the war and perceived changes in direction. The media will love it and will find it harder to criticise the war with untruths. Bush will love it because the reinforced support will sustain the time we need to finish the war

In the end, however, the war will be waged in the same manner it is now, which is to stick it out until the Iraqi government can assume control.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't know enough about Gates yet, but I have seen some suggestion that he is a realpolitic type of guy, like Scowcroft and Baker, as opposed to a Neocon like Rumsfeld (and Cheney).

My problem with the Realpolitic philosophy is that it allowed the United States to push the Kurds and Marsh (Shiite) Arabs to revolt against Saddam Hussein at the end of the First Gulf War, and then to mostly abandon them to being butchered by Saddam later (though we did provide some protection with our No-Fly Zones).

Of course, this is also the big difference between the two George Bushes. The elder Bush spent much of his professional career doing such things as running the CIA and being a diplomat. No wonder the Scowcrofts did well in his administration.

Shanna said...

Whatever happened to Lieberman as Defense Secretary?
I think that was all just silly talk. Didn’t the margin turn out 51/49? It’s going to be WAY more fun to watch Lieberman in the Senate.

dreamingmonkey said...

DaveG, those Rumsfeld comments you provided pretty much confirm my suspicion that he is actually senile.

First, he appears more concerned with control of the news cycle than with the facts on the ground. Nobody cares about the dems "fancy suits and flowery speeches" (except, apparently, Rumsfeld); what people care about is that they are going to be controlling Congress for the next two years. Second, Gates is going to sail through confirmation. It's not going to be hard for Dems to support Gates, and vote of confidence in Gates is NOT, by extension, a vote of confidence in Rumsfeld. He's just fantasizing.

tjl said...

"I have seen some suggestion that he is a realpolitic type of guy, like Scowcroft and Baker."

It's easy to malign Realpolitik concepts, but in the case of Iraq it made some sense to apply them. The argument for leaving Saddam in place in 1991 was that a unified Iraq was needed to counterbalance and thwart the aspirations of Iran. Of course this meant turning our backs on the Shiites and Kurds, but it did keep Iran in check for a dozen more years.

Having cast Realpolitik aside, we now have to deal with Iran ourselves, in addition to staving off chaos in Iraq. And we get no credit whatsoever for attempting to make amends for abandoning the Shiites and Kurds in 1991.

Joe said...

dreammonkey, you do know the article was satire, right? Apparently, not. Regardless, it Bush did preempt a whole lot of hot air spewing from Pelosi and company. I happen to watch the news alot yesterday and it became quite hilarious; the dems had nothing to say but the same vague and even self-contradictory statements.

(As an aside; the funniest thing I've noticed in the last two days is the Fox News reporters asking the dems to define the salary range of "the middle class"; at that point, the Democrat talking heads demur. They started doing the same thing with Iraq and now are generated the same, dead stares and stammering non-answers.)

johnstodderinexile said...

I know many partisans will be unhappy with the Dems getting any credit for victories in the war on terror, but I think it's better for the country in the long run for Republicans to share victory in the war with the Dems. This will alleviate the partisan feelings of Bush getting political capital from the victory and using the political capital for the conservative domestic agenda (such as making abortion illegal).

This fits a theory I've rattled in my head for the past six years. Bush took power in 2001 in a way that left many Dems doubting his legitimacy. (I wasn't one of them. I figured, hey, it was a really close election, and in such circumstances, who wins is more a matter of random chance, like a coin flip.) So when 9/11 happened, and it was Bush crawling around on the rubble with a megaphone, a lot of very partisan Democrats were renewed in their outrage, and were determine not to allow Bush to become this generation's FDR. That should've been Gore up there! So I think that's accounted for what has appeared to be a Democratic lack of seriousness in regard to the war on terror. Another piece of it is overcompensation. Deep down, they know Clinton's response to the jihad was inadequate, but they don't want that "narrative" to take hold.

Now, the Democrats have a fresh chance to participate in all this, and begin to gain the public's trust on defense and national security that was lost in the late 60s. If the party's leaders are smart and strong enough to ignore the blithering idiots on their side of the blogosphere, they'll essentially take the war on terror off the table by the time of the 2008 election. Make that election about domestic and social issues, and the Democrats have a great shot at winning. If the Dems go the "Bush lied, people died, impeach Bush" route, well, then they deserve what they'd get -- complete political marginalization. But that's not what I predict will happen.

johnstodderinexile said...

Having cast Realpolitik aside, we now have to deal with Iran ourselves, in addition to staving off chaos in Iraq. And we get no credit whatsoever for attempting to make amends for abandoning the Shiites and Kurds in 1991.

Sigh. I hate to admit it, but this is true. I wanted to think that ridding the Iraqi people of the extreme evil of Saddam just had to turn out better than the dysfunctional status quo of 2002. But it hasn't.

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, I think we're all RealPolitikians now.

That said, the reality is, because we toppled Saddam, we're responsible for dealing with Iran now. That's not something we can turn back the clock and pretend isn't the case. Maybe it's Bush's fault, but so be it. Only the US can lead that effort now.

dreamingmonkey said...

dreammonkey, you do know the article was satire, right?

aw, how embarrassing. But it's not any different from real arguments I have heard made....

tjl said...

"I think that's accounted for what has appeared to be a Democratic lack of seriousness in regard to the war on terror."

At last, a theory that plausibly explains the inexplicable -- why the Democratic party has seemed not just in denial, but in full attack mode against the evident reality that we are at war.

If you're correct, maybe there's hope the Dems won't give us a replay of the helicopters leaving from the embassy roof.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I hate Maureen "Shaxpear Airhead" Dowd, but this is amusing:

W. had no choice but to make an Oedipal U-turn. He couldn’t let Nancy Pelosi subpoena the cranky Rummy for hearings on Iraq. “He’s not exactly Mr. Charming or Mr. Truthful, and he’d be on TV saying something stupid,” said a Bush 41 official. “Bob can just go up to the Hill and say: ‘I don’t know. I wasn’t there when that happened.’ ”

So I guess Bush 43 is brilliant.

johnstodderinexile said...

If you're correct, maybe there's hope the Dems won't give us a replay of the helicopters leaving from the embassy roof.

Well, to be sure, the left blogosphere will go nuts if there aren't loads of investigations into everything short of whether Bush himself bombed the WTC. But as I've said here a couple of times before, the full arc of the Lamont experience was instructive of the fact that the left blogosphere's influence is limited and often provides political misdirection.

PatCA said...

It is indeed "style" for those who feel invincible. I keep thinking of that quote from the man who said he knew well how to enjoy his freedoms, but he didn't know how to fight for them.