Rumsfeld and Limbaugh, playing defense

The secretary finds a friendly base from which to minimize the criticism he's facing.

By Tim Grieve
April 18, 2006 5:23PM (UTC)
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At the top of Rush Limbaugh's Web site just now is a note to the "drive-by" media: "Click here for full audio and transcript to aid in your misquoting, distorting or taking out of context ..." We might spend a moment here observing that Limbaugh knows of what he speaks, but we won't waste the time; the story this time is Donald Rumsfeld, who's using Limbaugh's show as a base for his own defense.

Looking for a friendly venue from which to fire back at his critics, Rumsfeld joined Limbaugh Monday for a brief interview that came off more like a meeting of a mutual-admiration society. Limbaugh reminded the defense secretary that he used to be considered a sex symbol -- by whom, we're not sure -- and then asked him how it feels "to have practically the entire media jump on the case of these six generals demanding your ouster."


Rumsfeld's response: "Well, you know, 'This, too, will pass.'"

Rumsfeld pointed to support he's received from some active-duty officers and said that he's busy "doing my job, working on transformation and seeing that we manage the force in a successful way, and working on things involving Iraq." He said that "progress" in Iraq has been "good."

So why are the retired generals coming forward now?


"Well, I just don't know," Rumsfeld said. "I can't climb into other people's minds."

He doesn't seem to be trying particularly hard. Rumsfeld defended his conduct by trying to equate the war in Iraq with the great wars -- and some not-so-great wars -- in America's past. And as Limbaugh tried to minimize the extent of opposition to the Iraq war among the American public -- in a new Gallup poll, 65 percent of those polled disapproved of the way George W. Bush is handling Iraq -- Rumsfeld suggested that antiwar sentiment in the United States involves a "handful of critics" and the handiwork of Osama bin Laden.

"I guess only someone who's rooted in the history of our country, I think, could accept the kinds of comments that are being made," Rumsfeld said. "And if we recognize that the same kinds of criticism that occurred in the Revolutionary War and World War I and World War II and the Korean War, Vietnam War, it's not new. There have always been people who have opposed wars. Wars are terrible things. On the other hand, if every time there were critics and opponents to war, we wouldn't have won the Revolutionary War and we wouldn't have been involved in World War I or II, and if we had we would have failed, and our country would be a totally different place if it existed at all, if every time there were some critics we tossed in the towel. I think we just have to accept it, that people have a right to say what they want to say, and to have an acceptance of that and recognize that the terrorists, Zarqawi and bin Laden and Zawahiri, those people have media committees.


"They are actively out there trying to manipulate the press in the United States. They are very good at it. They're much better at managing those kinds of things than we are, and we have to recognize that we're not going to lose any battles out in the global war on terror out in Iraq or Afghanistan. The center of gravity of that war is right here, and in the capital of the United States of America and other Western capitals, in London, they're trying. It's a test of wills, and what's at stake for our country is our way of life. They want to strike at the very essence [of] what we are. We're free people, and our task in government, by golly, is to help protect the American people from people who killed 3,000 people here on September 11th and killed people in London and Madrid and Bali, and country after country around the world, who have no problems beheading people and murdering innocent men, women and children."

And so it went for a few minutes more -- Rumsfeld good, terrorists bad -- until it came time for Rumsfeld to thank Limbaugh "for what you do" and for the well-thanked host to blush in response. "Well, thank you, sir. I appreciate it," Limbaugh said. "That's Secretary -- it embarrasses me when I get thanked. That's Secretary Rumsfeld, at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Donald Rumsfeld Iraq Middle East Rush Limbaugh War Room