George Bush brought it upon himself.
He could have seen out the 2006 campaign season without discussing the fact that no one – with the exception of some joker who road out the Vietnam conflict defending Texas – thinks Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is doing a good job. Or, better yet, he could have acknowledged that there may be some, er, problems with Rumsfeld’s approach to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and just about every other responsibility with which he has been entrusted.
But, no, the president chose the final week of the most critical mid-term election campaign of any president in recent history to declare that he would stand by his Rummy.
Asked about Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush said that “both men are doing fantastic jobs.”
He then hailed Rumsfeld’s oversite of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m pleased with the progress we’re making,” the president said of Rumsfeld’s work, before announcing that he wanted the defense secretary to remain on the job until the end of Bush’s second term in January of 2009.
It was Bush who made this coming Tuesday’s national vote into a referendum on Rumsfeld. And, when referendum elections are held, newspapers make endorsements.
To the question of whether the defense secretary should keep his job, the four newspapers that cover the branches of the U.S. military are answering: “No!”
The Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times, independent publications that are broadly distributed in the commissaries of military bases around the world, will on Monday jointly publish an editorial headlined: “Time for Rumsfeld to go.”
The editorial begins with a quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins during the Korean War: “So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion … it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth.”
Then it goes on to bemoan the fact that, “until recently, the ‘hard bruising’ truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington.”
Then the editors let loose:
One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,” we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples.
Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors.
Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.