I saw Donald Rumsfeld speak for the first time when I was working as an intern in 1969 for then-Senator Walter Mondale. Rumsfeld was serving his fourth term as a congressman from Illinois’ 13th District and spoke to a group of interns in a presentation that my roommate and I attended. He spoke about his service as a Navy aviator (he continued to serve in the reserve until he became Secretary of Defense under President Ford in 1975) and about how he had come to run for Congress at the age of 29 in 1962.
A few days later we went to see the movie “If…” at a sold-out showing in Georgetown. The movie is a bizarre blend of fantasy and reality. After the movie we noticed Rumsfeld among the crowd streaming out of the theater. My roommate shouted to him, “Mr. Rumsfeld, what did you think of the movie?” “I didn’t get it,” he said with a bemused shrug of his shoulders. I can still see it in my mind’s eye and it’s a memory that has caused me to resist the media’s portrait of Rumsfeld’s allegedly unpleasant personal qualities. He has been a remarkable public servant for most of his adult life and I don’t think anyone has yet taken the measure of his service. Victor Davis Hanson pays tribute to his tenure as Secretary of Defense under President Bush here and a bit more here.
Today’s New York Times carries the administration’s account of the timing and thought behind Rumsfeld’s termination. Why would the Bush administration choose to use the New York Times as the channel for its account of Rumsfeld’s departure? That’s not a question that Diana West answers in her Washington Times column on Rumsfeld’s resignation, but it may be implicit in it. Daniel Henninger has related thoughts in his weekly Wall Street Journal column. Henninger writes: “George Bush’s foreign policy is at a tipping point.” And I think that the president may be wavering.
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