Either you are with us or you are with Donald Rumsfeld

In the wake of the defense secretary's "appeasers" speech, Boxer hopes to jam Republicans with the choice.

Published September 1, 2006 4:11PM (EDT)

In the wake of Donald Rumsfeld's over-the-top suggestion that Americans who oppose the war in Iraq are somehow akin to Nazi appeasers, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is trying to employ the sort of tactic Republican senators have used often over the past few years: Jam the other guys with an up-or-down vote on what is for them a no-way-to-win issue.

Boxer is introducing a nonbinding resolution that would call on George W. Bush to dump his secretary of defense, and she wants to attach it to the defense appropriation bill the Senate will take up sometime after its August recess and before the November elections. "I think it's time that the Senate hold this administration accountable for the people in their administration,'' the Orange County Register quotes Boxer as saying. "It seems to be that this Republican Congress has been compliant to the point of dangerous, and it's time that we speak up.''

With support for the war tanking, Republicans in close races know they've got to find some way to put distance between themselves and the war they've supported for so long. But most probably hope to do it by avoiding the issue (and the president) when they can and equivocating when they can't. They'd rather not offend Karl Rove and what's left of the base by taking what would be construed as an anti-Bush, antiwar vote, but they'd also rather not offend the majority of Americans Rumsfeld just accused of suffering from "a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion."

As for Rumsfeld? He isn't making it any easier on them. A day after the Los Angeles Times editorial board called the secretary's latest speech "unfair and, in places, inane," Rumsfeld is using an Op-Ed piece in the same newspaper to reiterate the points he made there and to urge Americans to "read what I actually said."

"We are again engaged in conflicts that are testing whether we believe that the defense of liberty is worth the cost," Rumsfeld writes. "And again, there are those who disagree with the mission, who question whether it is worth the sacrifice."

He's half right, of course. There are those -- a majority of Americans, actually -- who "disagree with the mission" on which Rumsfeld and Bush are even now dispatching more U.S. troops. But it's not because they don't think the "defense of liberty is worth the cost." It's because they think that putting American soliders in between warring Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq doesn't have a whole lot to do with the "defense of liberty" there, here or anywhere else.

By Tim Grieve

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

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2006 Elections Barbara Boxer D-calif. Donald Rumsfeld Iraq Middle East