August 21, 2006

Lieberman and Rumsfeld

I've really got no dog in the whole Lieberman/Lamont fight. I live in Manhattan, not Connecticut, and this blog has never focused much on senatorial races and the like. So I wasn't going to write about it much, if any. But today I hear that Lieberman has called for Don Rumsfeld's resignation. Specifically, Lieberman was asked on Face the Nation what he might be doing differently than Bush in Iraq:

LIEBERMAN: Yeah. I think there's--three years ago in October on this show you asked me and I said that I believe that it was time for new leadership at the Pentagon. I think it's still time for new leadership at the Pentagon. With all respect to Don Rumsfeld, who has done a grueling job for six years, we would benefit from new leadership to work with our military in Iraq. We also have to put severe pressure on the Iraqis to contain the sectarian violence that is there and stand up their ministries of defense and interior security. And then we've got to get the other Arab countries and hopefully some of the Europeans in with us to help to reconstruct Iraq.

That's interesting, specifically the "three years ago in October" part. That would put us in October 2003, wouldn't it? But here's Joe Lieberman writing in May of 2004, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal (ed. note: Perhaps Lieberman appeared on Face the Nation in October '04, and really meant to say two years ago in October? I'm certainly not going to waste anytime googling to find out, as this isn't really meant as some 'gotcha' post, but rather just to point out Lieberman was quite the Rummy defender post Abu Ghraib generally. P.S. See update below):

We cannot allow the prison scandal in Iraq to diminish our own American sense of national honor and purpose, or further erode support for our just and necessary cause in Iraq. American opponents of the war may try to do the latter, while foreign critics and enemies of the United States will try to do the former. The misdeeds of a few do not alter the character of our nation or the honor of the many who serve in our defense--and the world's--every day. Winning the war we are now fighting in Iraq against Saddam loyalists and jihadist terrorists remains critical to the security of the American people, the freedom of the Iraqi people, and the hopes of all the Middle East for stability and peace.

Most Democrats and Republicans, including President Bush and Sen. Kerry, agree that we must successfully finish what we have started in Iraq. Now is the time for all who share that goal to make our agreement publicly clear, to stress what unites us. Many argue that we can only rectify the wrongs done in the Iraqi prisons if Donald Rumsfeld resigns. I disagree. Unless there is clear evidence connecting him to the wrongdoing, it is neither sensible nor fair to force the resignation of the secretary of defense, who clearly retains the confidence of the commander in chief, in the midst of a war. I have yet to see such evidence. Secretary Rumsfeld's removal would delight foreign and domestic opponents of America's presence in Iraq. [emphasis added throughout]

I suspect this is the kind of thing that gets the so-called netroots so steamed at Lieberman. I mean, it gets me steamed, given that I thought Rumsfeld should have been frog-marched out of the Pentagon after Abu Ghraib, much less be defended by an opposition party statesman who is supposedly a leading 'conscience' politician or such. And now, with rather convenient timing given the Lamont challenge, Lieberman comes out more, shall we say, plainly against Rumsfeld. Not particularly elegant, it must be said, and rather of the too little, too late variety, no? I'm certainly underwhelmed and this despite being a fervent Rummy critic who, I suppose, should be quite happy indeed anytime a major politician comes out calling for his head. But for some reason this call for Rumsfeld's resignation leaves me strangely unmoved and unpersuaded. It smells, frankly.

UPDATE: A reader clarifies:

When Lieberman says he called for Rumsfeld to resign in 2003 he's referring to this 10/26/03 Face the Nation appearance:

SCHIEFFER: Do you think this means that perhaps the president ought to change secretaries of Defense?

LIEBERMAN: Well, look, ultimately the buck stops at the president's desk. He's the commander in chief. He has to take accountability if things don't work well. I'll tell you this -- that Secretary Rumsfeld told the truth in that private memo, that they haven't been as trusting of the American people to tell us the truth about the fact that we're not doing as well as they -- that we should be doing in the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. And the worst thing about Don Rumsfeld's time at the Pentagon, the uniform military feel deeply that he doesn't respect them, doesn't listen to them. That's not the kind of relationship that we need between a secretary of Defense and the military.

Judgment about whether he stays or not is up to President Bush, but if I were president, I'd get a new secretary of Defense.

SCHIEFFER: You would?


So, for the record, the bidding looks like this. Way back in October of 2003, Lieberman said if he were the guy in the Oval Office he'd can Rummy (different than calling on Bush to do so, of course, which is more forceful, and not in keeping with the deferential war time mores we're admonished to follow). Then, after the massive debacle of Abu Ghraib, and some seven months after this interview, Lieberman sees it fit to pen an op-ed in the WSJ urging Rummy not be sacked--lest we "delight foreign and domestic opponents". And now fast-forward to these heady times rife with challenges from the likes of Ned Lamont, and it's OK again, I guess, to risk delighting our foreign foes with calls for Rummy to go. Rather on the lame side, I'm afraid.

Posted by Gregory at August 21, 2006 02:22 AM

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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