Sunday, June 26, 2005

Whither Rumsfeld?

Rummy did the rounds of the Sunday shows. I caught his Meet the Press and This Week performances, and I was frankly surprised.

He seemed weak and petulant. Maybe his act is just wearing thin, but his little dodges didn't seem to be getting him around tough questions. He never quite denied that American military officers met with insurgents, and he couldn't even be sure if he had been told about that meeting. He's told about lots of meetings, and why should he remember a meeting between the Pentagon and Iraqi insurgents?

Why should he know how long soldiers will be in Iraq? It would be bad to speculate. Is the insurgency dying down? Of course, but attacks will probably get worse. And so on.

Afterward, I wondered if he isn't on his way out. You don't go out to the Sunday shows if you aren't trying to make a major shift in public opinion. And if you can't turn perception around, you aren't an asset. As the poll numbers fall for Bush and for Iraq, Rummy's job isn't about being right, it's about being a good salesman. If he can't sell the newest line of nonsense, what good is he?

I think he went out there to save himself and the administration from the growing concern over Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and the gathering storm of inadequate recruitment which seems to presage a draft. Back in the "shock and awe" days, the press loved his little schtick of answering a question with another question, and then giving a bogus answer to his own question.

Today, even the usually deferential (to Republicans) Timmy Russert seemed dissatisfied with Don Rumsfeld's act. And that's bad news for Bush, which makes it bad news for Rummy. At some point, they'll have to throw someone overside to quiet the dissent. Iraq or Gitmo will start getting bad headlines real soon, and Congress will start raking people over the coals.

When that hits, it won't be Alberto Gonzales going away, because he isn't the public face of the war. It won't be Paul Wolfowitz, because he's off World Banking. Rummy did too well at boxing the State Department out of Iraq, so Condi and Colin are safe. That just leaves Rumsfeld.

And the time will come when the Congressional Republicans want to run for re-election, and when Democrats will fight to be more vociferous. And both Congressional parties will want a head on a pike, and if Rumsfeld's act won't fly anymore, it's going to be his head.