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Does the president command respect?

Seymour Hersh, reporting on the badly forged documents lately cited by the White House — at the highest levels — as evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, quotes a "former high-level intelligence official" who told him that officials at the C.I.A. knew the documents were a fraud:

"It could not have gotten into the system without the agency being involved. Therefore it was an internal intention. Someone set someone up."

The New York Times, reporting on Donald Rumsfeld's "complicated management style" last week, began with what they suggested is a revealing anecdote:

During a White House planning session with his top military advisers late last month, President Bush turned to Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a pressing question: How long would war with Iraq last?

But before General Myers could respond, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put a hand on his arm and said, "Now, Dick, you don't want to answer that."

Now, two instances don't a trend make. But each of these seems pretty disturbing: In one case, government officials apparently deliberately allowed misinformation to be passed on to the president as verified intelligence; and in the other, one of the president's own secretaries told a member of his staff to ignore the president's question, right in front of his face. It's hard not to conclude that, at the highest levels, at least some officials openly disrespect the office of the president, and the president himself. (I mean, how else could you describe it?)

One wonders, if officials somehow feel free to act that way, just who's really running the show.

March 28, 2003 12:36 AM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

Rumsfeld is all about sarcasm.

Never mind that the question (how long will this (or: "a") war take to completion) is akin to asking how long will it take a child to mature emotionally, or for a plant to bloom, or for a spilt glass of milk to cover a surface. Too many factors, to many ever changing variables. You might have a guess, but probability states you'll be dead wrong 99% of the time in all such instances of pure guessing.

So, was it a good/right question? Of course not.
It was a naive question, no matter how instinctive to human nature.

This all leads into a hard look at a seemingly omnipresent, equally naive, notion in the American public: The US President is an all-commanding, all-in-charge, all-hands-on leader.

Of course not. Please. The US President is, always, a macro manager (sans Carter, lugging literally multiple tombs to his private residence each evening, and look how he did at his micro management effort).

I pray, literally, for a better informed, more realistic US public.

This war will end when it will end, despite naive wishes for a concrete time-line amongst the sheep who follow their consumerist pleasures, not logic.

As a good man said amongst equally lost people:
Come [on], let us reason.


Posted by rob adams on March 28, 2003 12:11 PM

On topic enough?

Posted by topical rob on March 28, 2003 12:12 PM

So, was it a good/right question? Of course not.
It was a naive question, no matter how instinctive to human nature.

That wasn't what was apparently behind Rumsfeld's response, however. Rumsfeld didn't say to the president, The answer doesn't matter; he said to the general, Don't give the president an answer I won't like. But isn't it the job of a person responsible for making a decision to get the right information, not just the information other people want him to hear?

And, moreover, the president himself chose to ask the question. Is it really Rumsfeld's (or anyone else's, for that matter) job to decide what the president should and shouldn't learn from his staff? Rumsfeld apparently thinks it is, and acts accordingly, and openly so. I don't think that speaks well for the president, or how he's running his White House.

Posted by M on March 28, 2003 1:16 PM

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