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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rummy’s Heart of Stone?

As the drumbeat of criticism of Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of Iraq spreads across party lines, his boss, George W. Bush, went out of his way at today’s snap press conference to defend Rummy’s heart. “I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart,” quoth he. “I know how much he cares for the troops.”
I know Bush was responding in part to unhappiness about Rumsfeld’s insensitive handling of a Q&A session with those troops he cares so much for, and to a new report that Rummy uses an autopen to sign condolence letters to the families of troops killed in the line of duty.
But still: this defense of Mr. Defense was off the mark. If we wanted a “sensitive” SecDef, there are, oh, about 250 million Americans who probably have better credentials than Donald Rumsfeld. He was hired because he’s supposedly a management wizard with exceptional knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the U.S. armed forces. And personally, I’d forgive him all sorts of “insensitivity” if he had proven himself competent to prosecute a war of choice and a post-war transition in Iraq.
But he hasn’t, and shows no signs that on-the-job training has improved his competence. His inveterate arrogance is dangerous not so much because he cannot put himself in the place of the men and women he’s placed in peril, but because, like his boss, he has an extraordinary inability to conduct a mid-course correction in his policies and practices.
My colleague The Moose nailed it yesterday when he compared Rumsfeld to Robert S. McNamera, another management wizard who could not accept the evidence of his eyes that his state-of-the-art strategy for victory in Vietnam was failing.
I don’t personally care if Rumsfeld has a heart of stone. But his head of stone is another matter.

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