Sunday, December 03, 2006

OK, I get it.*

I understand the reason for the release of the Rumsfeld memo. It's not an embarrassing leak for the administration -- the Bushies wanted the memo out, as part of the wall of noise they want to build to drown out the Baker commission's recommendations.

Consider a couple of stories following up on the New York Times's disclosure of the Rummy memo:


The U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Sunday a classified memo that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House shortly before he resigned was part of the administration's broad effort to assess progress in Iraq....

"It's a good thing. It's energizing to review and adjust and the secretary of defense was offering his own ideas. Others in the administration have also sent their ideas for consideration," U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said....

Another AP story:

President Bush is open to some of the major change in Iraq policy that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suggested in a classified memo days before he resigned, the White House's national security adviser said Sunday....

"The president had asked agencies to begin a review of our policy in Iraq, and what Secretary Rumsfeld did, I think, very helpfully, was put together a sort of laundry list of ideas that ought to be considered as part of that review," Hadley said.

"The president really wanted us to open the aperture, consider all ideas, and it was input by Secretary Rumsfeld, helpful input into that process," he said....

Open the aperture. Consider all ideas. That's the message. All ideas -- not just the ideas from Daddy's friend.

Don't forget:

In addition to the Iraq Study Group, [President Bush] will soon be receiving reports from his own staff, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency.

I don't know whether or not Rumsfeld's memo was written in connection with either of those reports. But it doesn't matter. Releasing the memo was a preemptive strike against Baker. Today you hear his set of recommendations. Soon you'll hear the Pentagon's. And the NSA's. The Bushies want Baker's report to be just one of many reports, rather than the standard against which Bush's policy is measured.

So it really didn't matter to them what Rummy said -- all that mattered is that it's out there. Confusion is being sown.


*My second (third, fourth) thoughts have been moved here.

SUNDAY EVENING UPDATE: Well, when I read this now, a few hours later, it seems really wrongheaded. I think I was giving the Bushies way too much credit for cleverness and skill at political jujitsu. But I'll leave it up for anyway, for the hell of it.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: On the other hand, some readers think I was right -- see the comments.

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Maybe I wasn't crazy -- Dan Froomkin at The Washington Post and Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report think it's conceivable that this and the leak of the Hadley memo were planned leaks from the White House. As Steve says:

I haven't any idea, but I do think it's interesting that the Bush gang screams bloody murder (sometimes literally) when classified materials are leaked that they don't want to see on the front page, but seem oddly passive about these recent leaks.

That was one reason I thought the Rummy leak was planned.

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