Spectral leadership. Check out this exchange yesterday between Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Full transcript here.)
RUSSERT: Let me show you the latest pictures from Iraqi TV of Saddam Hussein. They show him there in a rather jovial -- that's Tariq Aziz, the deputy foreign minister, enjoying a laugh, sitting around a table. The Iraqis are saying that these pictures were taken yesterday, more released today. What can you tell us about Saddam Hussein?
RUMSFELD: There are reports in Baghdad and in Iraq that he may be dead. There are reports that he may have been injured. There are clearly reports that the leadership is in some disarray, if he's alive. And until time passes and ground truth is learned, we'll just have to assume that he's alive and well. Those photographs, video pictures, appear to some people who watch them to have been prerecorded, and we do have intelligence saying that they prerecorded a number of events like that so that they would have them available in case they were either killed or were not in a position where they could be accessible to the kinds of cameras and communication devices that would enable them to do that.
RUSSERT: If you knew Saddam Hussein was dead, is it something that you would make public or try to prevent from being made public in order to make sure Iraq did not break down in disarray?
RUMSFELD: It wouldn't matter what we tried to do. We have so many press people, hundreds, hundreds of people that are right there. There are people on the ground in Baghdad. My personal view is if someone asked me that question, which no one ever has, I would say the truth is the truth. Just tell the truth, and if he's dead, he's dead. But we can't say that.
RUSSERT: Is Saddam Hussein directing the Iraqi military at this time?
RUMSFELD: It's not knowable....
Q: Well, Mr. Secretary, is Saddam dead or alive? A: We don't know. Q: Okay, what did he have for dinner last night?
Not knowable? I should say not.
By the way, it now appears that Saddam is probably alive.