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I shoulda been a spin doctor

Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a press conference. During the event, he had a bit of a confrontation with CNN's Jamie McIntyre. Here's a transcript:

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Secretary, I'm just curious, do you feel at all embattled at this point in your tenure?


MCINTYRE: Aside from the retired two-star general calling you incompetent and asking you to step down in an op-ed over the weekend, you also have a column from Maureen Dowd in which she quoted an unnamed administration official saying that you don't hold the same sway in meetings and that you're treated as, quote, "an eccentric old uncle who is ignored."

When I heard the exchange, I had a brief fantasy about being Rumsfeld, and answering Mr. McIntyre:

"Actually, Jamie, it's funny that you bring it up. I had my staff do some research, and my sway in the Administration is down 1.3% over the last quarter. But on the other hand, my access and credibility are both up over 3.4%, and my legacy is up 1.5%."

"Mr. Secretary... um... I don't understand that answer."

"Of course you don't. It's an absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical answer to an absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical question. It was designed for one thing, and one thing only: to allow you to make yourself look good by embarassing me. It gave you the chance to get some face time on TV and show your bosses and the public how tough you can be. I don't feel particularly inclined to assist you. Now, does anyone have a REAL question?"

I've had impulses like this in the past. For example, a famous incident from 2003:

"Mr. President, when you spoke to the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln back in May 2003, there was a big 'Mission Accomplished' banner hanging from the ship's island. In retrospect, do you think that was a mistake, to declare the mission in Iraq accomplished so soon?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake. Why don't you just LOOK at what was being said there. I was aboard the Lincoln, which was returning after helping us fight in Iraq. The fine men and women of that noble ship had served with distinction and honor, and were coming home. THEIR mission was accomplished. They had been given an assignment, and had completed it admirably. I chose to honor them for their work as a symbol for all those who had served so far, and to recognize that they had done all they had been asked to do. And it was 'Mission accomplished,' not 'war over' or even 'victory.'"

* * * * *

Or, perhaps, this exchange from 1988:

"By agreement between the candidates, the first question goes to Gov. Dukakis. You have two minutes to respond. Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

"Bernie, absolutely I would. In fact, I would demand it. I would use everything within my power, every scrap of influence I had, to make sure the savage animal that raped and murdered my wife was put to death in the most painful, elaborate, slow, excruciating fashion available. As much as I like to think I'm above it, I know that the siren's lure of revenge is incredibly powerful, and I don't think I could resist it.

But Bernie, that would be wrong. That would be a perversion of our criminal system. Because our system is not based on vengeance, but on justice. The suffering of the victim is one element in determining the punishment of the guilty, but it is not the only element. It's not even the primary element. In our system, it is society as a whole that determines the type of sanction to impose. And as a society, I believe we ought to move away from showing how much we disapprove of killing by killing those who kill. It's wrong when criminals do it, and it's wrong when the state does it."

Dukakis had a chance to reach out to the people, show his humanity and bond with them, and at the same time take a firm, principled stand against capital punishment -- and he blew it. Even though I disagree with his position, he could have made a hell of a case for his side, and instead he reacted in the only way he could: as a wonk, with policies, principles, and platitudes -- and utterly without passion. It sums up the reason for his defeat far better than anything else could.

So while I'm glad Rumsfeld did take the opportunity to smack around McIntyre, I'm a little saddened because he could have done so much more.

Comments (15)

Rummy for press secretary!<... (Below threshold)
Dan S:

Rummy for press secretary!

Hehehe... that would be great fun.

Hey, Rummy fell into that o... (Below threshold)

Hey, Rummy fell into that one by claiming "No". Why not just meet the press with a "Moscow or Bust" T-shirt on? R should be giving as good/bad as he gets, but hiding under such a passive strategy belies the weakness of the administration's position. Or gives that appearance to the People of Earth! And using the self-referential lapdog-press as foils should be less bloody for the administration with the parameters so well defined (i.e. the nightly newscasts report the same stories, as we all know too well! And the intelligensia can see them coming for miles.) If Rummy were well read at all in beltway matters (and I'll bet he is and who wouldn't be when you know the players?) he could have countered the reporter's citation of Ms. Dowd, by reminding the reporter who the columnist was who raised concerns that Slick Willie may be in league with Satan; and though likely true (laughs), is her's the best evidence to rely on? Base hit, at least! But no! This genius is all tics and grimaces!---------- And to say that that "Mission Accomplished" banner was anything but a self-congratulatory backdrop for W's "historic" photo-op is bull. For one thing, the Navy doesn't "do" the block-party-on-deck thing unless a certain commander-in-chief gets the itch to play Emperor Jones. I'll venture the C.O. was NOT AMUSED AT ALL with "that" banner which looked like the entrance sign to a flea market. As far as the crew needing or expecting kudos; the navy was only doing its duty! All in a tour's work! No big deal! That's why they're the best. Meanwhile W actually saya he piloted the jet. Well: he might have BELIEVED he did (like a little kid might sit on dad's lap and "drive the car") but I even doubt that. STRONGLY! Don't forget that during his time as TX governor W intimated that in 1973 he gave rides in his jet to "under-privelidged kids" (tears) when the fact is, whether at his post or not, W definitely was not flying that year or the year before. Rummy and W: let's pretend we're impressed!

I'm quite certain that the ... (Below threshold)

I'm quite certain that the word "bond" is not in Michael Dukakis' vocabulary.

You can tell when a post ge... (Below threshold)

You can tell when a post gets under a lefties shin(hint- starts with a "b") by reading his post. he he.

I wish administration peopl... (Below threshold)
Charles Bannerman:

I wish administration people would drop the political politeness and answer the dumb ass questions the way they would really like to. Since this administration can't run again wouldn't be nice if the President would answer Helen Thomas " that question is so stupid I won't dignify it with and answer"?

Jay Tea wishes tha... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay Tea wishes that Dukasis had pleaded that..the savage animal that raped and murdered my wife was put to death in the most painful, elaborate, slow, excruciating fashion available. I dare say practically every family of a victim of crime feels this way, including the deceased family's victim of dangerous driving, but does that mean that Jay Tea is advocating a sharia system of vengeance for our system of justice..A true leader has the quality of clemency in his soul like Nelson Mendela...Nietzche one of the Conservatives most quoted philosophers, said the one quality of the superman was to be above vengeance..If we want the only the unrestrained passions of the common man and some of the posters here, rather than more calculated cerebral men (and womwn), why bother with intellectual Presidential debates; a reality show contest might be a more instructive way to choose our leaders. It is practically that way now anyway, all circus horse and whistles ..contrived emotion 'read my lips' vs contrived reasoning..

The degredation of torture,... (Below threshold)
Drew E:

The degredation of torture, with his approval, in the name of the Unitied State? Given his views, policy since before the war started and his leadership in the War, if you owned a company, where would you place Rummy as an employee?

Hey, that's great, JT: "I s... (Below threshold)

Hey, that's great, JT: "I shoulda been a spin doctor." Imagine that, eh? Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. You are "fair and balanced" as always.

So what are the straight, unspun, untheatrical answers to McIntire's questions? Inquiring minds want to enquire.

"starts with a 'b'?" What i... (Below threshold)

"starts with a 'b'?" What is this? 6th grade homeroom? And I'm RIGHT-handed! (or footed, re:"shin") "he he"(ugh!)

Has anyone read Maureen Dow... (Below threshold)

Has anyone read Maureen Dowd's Op Ed in todays NYT? Maybe I am not as smart as the average reader of the NYT but is she actually suggesting that she has a way out of Iraq, which involves possibly having Chaney hire prostitutes? I cant wait to see this column quoted in a press conference.

Rummy should have said is t... (Below threshold)

Rummy should have said is that the only people who quote Dowd, read Dowd, employ Dowd and refer to Dowd are morons and he doesn't want to risk brain damage.

Justice is the collectivized revenge by society against transgressors. Any society that permits relatively unrestricted abortion has no moral or ethical stand against the death penalty. We would be better off saving the babies and aborting the murderers.

jhow66GWB on the c... (Below threshold)
sammy small:


GWB on the carrier is a topic that drives leftys batty. I can see where they get so rabid. If you grew up with your hero, draft dodger Bubba, donning a bomber jacket to do photo ops with military heroes even though you secretly knew the heroes loathed him, you'd be jaded too.

GWB's real world military arrival on the Lincoln fit perfectly with what his fighter pilot background was and what the current crop of heroes believe in.

What a powerful comparison between the two.

:bryanD:"For one ... (Below threshold)
:bryanD:" For one thing, the Navy doesn't "do" the block-party-on-deck thing unless a certain commander-in-chief gets the itch to play Emperor Jones. I'll venture the C.O. was NOT AMUSED AT ALL with "that" banner which looked like the entrance sign to a flea market.
And you "sir" haven't clue number one.

Sorry, after 9 deployments (6 to the Gulf, 5 on a Carrier) over 20 years each and every happy return to the West Coast or homeport in Japan included what you claim doesn't happen. All without a Commander and Chief onboard I might add.

Frankly "sir" you can go to hell with your childish little rant and your terminal case of BDS!

So there bryanD you nincon... (Below threshold)

So there bryanD you ninconpoop.

Yeah, bryanD, you pansy-ass... (Below threshold)

Yeah, bryanD, you pansy-ass.

I think you would be a perfect match for Maureen Dowd. Both humorless, depressing misfits.






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