Monday, March 31, 2003

Dowd twists Rumsfeld's words II. I heard from several readers who took me to task for yesterday's item on the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. The gist was that she had accurately sensed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's attempt to distance himself from General Tommy Franks at Friday's Pentagon briefing, and that I was too dense to see it.

To which I reply:

1. Maybe Rumsfeld is indeed trying to blame the war's slow start on Franks, but you wouldn't know it from what he said Friday. My point was that Dowd had completely twisted Rumsfeld's words, not whether she had accurately discerned what he was thinking. ("Unknowable," to use one of Rummy's favorite words.)

2. Yesterday Rumsfeld once again attributed the plan to Franks and once again showered him with praise. And this time he was more explicit about what I suspect was the real reason he offloaded this onto Franks on Friday: he's not trying to blame Franks so much as he is desperately attempting to deflect criticism that he's been micromanaging the war plan and not giving the generals what they need.

On ABC's This Week, Rumsfeld labeled as "absolutely false" an article by Seymour Hersh in the new New Yorker that reports he repeatedly rejected requests by the generals for more troops. He told host George Stephanopoulos:

The plan we have is his [Franks's]. I would be delighted to take credit for it. It's a good plan. It's a creative and an innovative plan. And it's going to work. And it is his plan and it has been approved by the chiefs. Every one of the chiefs has said it's executable and they support it. It's been looked at by all the combatant commanders. It's gone through the National Security Council process. And what you're seeing is fiction. You're seeing second-guessers out there.

So not only did Dowd get it wrong, but she attributed to Rumsfeld motives that were less interesting than those that really seem to be at play. My suspicion is that Rumsfeld isn't so much worried that the plan isn't working as he is that he'll be tarred as a bureaucrat who wouldn't listen to his generals, thus putting American troops at unnecessary risk.

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