Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A couple of days ago I said that George W. Bush might conceivably let Donald Rumsfeld go. That's obviously not going to happen, though I'm not embarrassed that I guessed wrong.

It could have gone the other way, after all. The way these things work is that, after being attacked, the Bushies immediately go on offense; if they don't score, well, it's a loss, a la Harriet Miers or Dubai.

This time they scored. They hit one out of the ballpark. Actually, I'd say they hit back-to-back homers: both "we need civilian control of the military" and "only a small number of generals are critical" went yard. The press lapped both lines up.

In fact, the press loves the Bush counteroffensive. My favorite sign of the press's fondness for the Bush spin is what Cokie Roberts said yesterday morning on NPR. She played a soundbite from former Joint Chiefs head Richard Myers on the need for civilian control of the military, then she said this:

Now, General Myers .. was making a point that is the fundamental point in the United States republic, which is this separation of the civilian and military when it comes to policy decisions about use of the military. They are made by civilians, and it is significant that one of the few pictures that is up in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol is that of George Washington resigning his commission as general of the Revolutionary War, and that was seen as something that was necessary to do before a civilian government could be formed and the new republic put into place -- it could not be led by a military man, is the symbol of that portrait.

What's wrong with bringing up the Washington portrait in this context? Oh, just this: The retired generals who have come out in favor of Rumsfeld's resignation have also left the military -- just like George Washington. They're retired generals. That means they're not in the military anymore. They're civilians now. Just like Washington after he resigned his commission.

They were generals, tested under fire, so we feel attention must be paid. We felt the same way about Washington. But now they're ... what, class? That's right: civilians.

Did Cokie, the daughter of two members of Congress, think of the painting on her own? Maybe. Or maybe someone in the administration fed Cokie the spin point. In which case, she swallowed it without even bothering to chew it.

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