Bob Novak reports that Rumsfeld has few supporters outside the Bush inner circle.
Rumsfeld is a man of extraordinary talents. When I first covered him almost 40 years ago, he was a House member from ChicagoÃ¢€™s North Shore whose future seemed limitless. But he alienated the party’s Old Guard leadership, the reason he left Congress in 1969 to head the Nixon administrationÃ¢€™s poverty program.
The Rumsfeld style was apparent when he was still in his thirties and President Richard Nixon named him ambassador to NATO. On his first day in Brussels, he publicly humiliated a young briefing officer with a barrage of questions he was not prepared to answer. It was a management technique Rumsfeld perfected in high federal office and as a successful corporate CEO.
In 2001, a few months after Rumsfeld was brought back for a second hitch at the Pentagon, an old friend of his gave me a disturbing report. A former senior government official who was by then a defense industry consultant, he told me Rumsfeld was a disaster waiting to happen. Rumsfeld, insulated by his inner circle, was at war with the uniformed military, the civilian bureaucracy and both houses of Congress.
This same former official told me last week that the Iraqi prisoners fiasco was the inevitable outgrowth of RumsfeldÃ¢€™s management style. “If it had not happened with this,” he told me, “there would have been a different disaster.” The “kill the messenger” syndrome, other Pentagon sources say, clogs up avenues of information.
To well-informed outsiders, RumsfeldÃ¢€™s fate seems assured. Stratfor, the private intelligence service, reported last week: “The amazing thing is not that the White House is preparing Rumsfeld for hanging but that it has taken so long.” The report added that Rumsfeld “consistently managed to get the strategic and organizational questions wrong.” That harsh view is widely shared inside the Pentagon.
I may be in the minority on this one but think a Rumsfeld was absolutely vital for reshaping the armed forces. The fact that he doesn’t need to be liked enabled him to make changes in the defense bureacracy that have been necessary since George Marshall called for them in 1943. He succeeded where presidents, blue ribbon commissions, and others have failed for decades. He hasn’t gone far enough in my view–the transformation has streamlined the warfighting force but hasn’t bolstered the stabilization operations capability nearly enough–but it has been amazing in its scope.