Out of Context?
I caught this over at the Washington Monthly,
But go read Spencer Ackerman’s summary of Rumsfeld’s performance. Sure, we ought to have more armor for our Humvees by now, but this isn’t really a question of armor, it’s a question of respect:
Today, he came face to face with pissed-off frontline soldiers. And he treated them with the same arrogance and condescension that their superior officers have come to expect. To the question about unequal retirement benefits for equal service, Secretary Marie Antoinette replied, “I can’t imagine anyone your age worrying about retirement. Good grief.”
Indeed. Hard to imagine an average joe worrying about retirement. Who does this grunt think he is?
It is genuinely to Rumsfeld’s credit that he talked with the troops and took their questions. But these aren’t hardened politicians on Capitol Hill, and they deserved better than Rumsfeld gave them.
I thought, “Geez, that sounds pretty heartless”. So, I dug around for the transcript and here is the relevant question and the entire answer,
Q: Specialist Skarwin (Sp?) HHD 42nd Engineer Brigade. Mr. Secretary [Cheers] my question is with the current mission of the National Guard and Reserves being the same as our active duty counterparts, when are more of our benefits going to line up to the same as theirs, for example, retirement? [Cheers] [Applause]
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter] I canÃ¢€™t imagine anyone your age worrying about retirement. [Laughter] Good grief. ItÃ¢€™s the last thing I want to do is retire. The pay and benefits for the Guard and the Reserve relative to the active force have been going up unevenly at a rate faster than the active force. If you go back over four years Ã¢€“ matter of fact, I just went over this with the senior person in the department who looks at pay and benefits. And apparently, whatÃ¢€™s happened is that for a variety of reasons, the incremental changes that are made each year, in terms of pay and benefits and health care and retirement and what have you, have brought the Guard and Reserve up at a faster level than the active force. And what one has to do in managing the total force and the total force is critically important. We need the Guard and Reserve as well as the active force. And we have to see that we have the incentives arranged in a way that we can attract and retain the people that are needed to defend the country. At the moment, we are doing well in terms of attracting and retaining the people we need. And if anything, I think the data suggests that the Guard and Reserve forces had been advantaged relatively compared to the active force over the past four years. Question.
Hmmm, sure looks like Rumsfeld thought he was making a joke about being worried about retirement at a young age and was not being disdainful. The seems especially true in that Rumsfeld went on and talked at length about the question the soldier raised. I admit I didn’t see any tape of the Q&A session so maybe I missed something in terms of tone or something, but it sure seems like Both Drum and Ackerman dropped the ball and didn’t look at the overall context/answer Rumsfeld gave.