The other day, I took my college-age daughter clothes shopping. After too much time browsing through the stock at the local mall, she picked out a pair of pants she liked, but couldn’t decide on the color.
“Do you like the brown or black best?” she asked.
“Brown,” I replied.
So she put down the brown pair and said, “Black it is, then.”
I didn’t take it as an insult. My fashion sense is usually 180 degrees away from mainstream and she knows it. I can usually expect that she and I will disagree on trivial things like fashion.
But this column isn’t about fashion and it isn’t about my daughter’s shopping habits. I related the above story as an analogy to what is going on in the political world.
I am loathe to compare myself to Pres. George W. Bush, but whereas my inability to discern what’s trendy in fashion is fairly trivial in the whole scheme of things, Bush’s inability to discern what is best for the country sometimes results in huge and costly blunders.
For the last five years, almost every time a major decision regarding anything from national security to scientific progress has come across Bush’s desk, he has picked the wrong alternative.
If it weren’t so serious it would be funny. In fact, sometimes it is funny, which is why Bush is such good fodder for late-night comedians.
One of the very first mistakes Bush made after he was elected the first time was to select Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
This was the same Rumsfeld who, as defense secretary under Gerald Ford, indirectly killed 52 people after urging the president to hastily produce vast quantities of swine flu vaccine.
A single military recruit fell ill in New Jersey in 1976 of what some medical experts speculated might be the swine flue. At Rumsfeld’s urging, Ford implemented a program to inoculate all Americans with a hastily produced vaccine that was ultimately responsible for killing those 52 people and resulting in 600 more becoming ill.
That was the first in a long series of pronouncements that would define Rumsfeld’s decide-it-now-plan-it-later method of decision making.
Rumsfeld has been dropping the ball long enough that at least half a dozen retired generals have called for his resignation. Since the beginning of April, six retired generals have come forward to criticize Rumsfeld’s decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan. These are among the highest-ranking officers in the Army, all of whom have vastly more military experience than does Rumsfeld.
But Rumsfeld, in his usual arrogant manner, shrugged off the criticism as coming from a few disgruntled officers. And Bush, who has taken obstinacy to almost an art form, stood by Rumsfeld and said he would continue to stick by him and his decisions.
“Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this period,” Bush said.
That’s right. Much like a broken leg needs a good swift kick.
Rumsfeld is steady, perhaps. At least he’s consistent. Almost every decision he’s ever made that could possibly impact soldiers or Americans in a negative way, he has made the wrong decision. In that regards, he’s exactly like his boss.
The list of foul-ups is long. He was complicit in the alleged war crimes at Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan.
He quarreled for months with the CIA over who had the authority to fire Hellfire missiles from Predator drones. The quarrel kept the Predator from being used against al Qaeda.
One CIA terrorist hunter complained of Rumsfeld that he never missed an opportunity to fail to cooperate. He also called Rumsfeld an obstacle, to the point of helping the terrorists.
Rumsfeld may also have an ongoing conflict of interest. CNN and USA Today have published stories implying that Donald Rumsfeld profitted from sales of Tamiflu to the US government. Tamiflu is used in the treatment of bird flu and is produced by Gilead Sciences. Rumsfeld was Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences.
Rumsfeld has shown no inclination to resign and Bush has shown no inclination to ask him to. They are just a couple of old-school buddies who have banded together to bring ruin and shame to America.
Whether they mean to or not, that’s exactly what they’re doing.