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Rumsfeld on Obama

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Rumsfeld Obama

My conversation with Donald Rumsfeld on yesterday’s show generated a lot of nostalgia for the former SecDef. (The transcript and audio are posted here.) What the emailers miss is his directness. He answers questions. Specifically, Rumsfeld answered my 24 questions in about 21 minutes. His answers were direct even thought the questions were pointed and led into controversial areas such as the Israel’s likely refusal to share with the U.S. any plans for an attack on Israel because of the likelihood of a leak from within the Obama Administration.
Rumsfeld critique of President Obama is sweeping and not unexpected, but refreshingly candid, like his press conferences in the aftermath of the attack on America that earned him the affection of the country at least for a season.
By contrast, the president almost never answers a question with a direct, concise response. Our review of the president’s last two extensive exchanges with press revealed that he took on average between 6 and 7 minutes to answer every question. At that pace, two plus hours would have been required to get through the two dozen questions I posed Rumsfeld.
The president’s auto-filibuster function takes over whenever the president encounters a recorded question. He really has lost his confidence when it comes to thinking-on-his-feet, and the “Polish Death Camps” face plant is only the most recent of a long line of increasingly embarrassing flubs. His engagements with the press now appear to be long exercises in eating up time without saying a thing so he can maintain the appearance of being in command of the situation even as the public increasingly tunes out his absurd claims and preposterous proposals.
One other specific take-away from the conversation: Rumsfeld’s assessment of the president’s assurance of “flexibility” to then Russian President Medvedev is succinct, and the widely-shared view of serious commentators and experienced foreign policy analysts. So too is his general assessment of the president’s preparedness for the job. Economic issues are dominating this election cycle, but when the spotlight turns to the president’s many failures abroad and what a second term would look like, this ominous assurance of “flexibility” from the president to an adversary will be a top-of-mind issue even if the Manhattan-Beltway media elites refuse to discuss its significance. The general assessment is also spreading.
The president’s verbal obfuscation now permeates the entire administration, and Jake Tapper’s exchange with Jay Carney puts Carney in the Hall of Fame of dodging press secretaries. There are no straight answers to give, no fact-based arguments to marshall with five months to go before the referendum on the president.
When Scott Walker wins tomorrow night, too little credit will be given to his willingness to stand in front of voters and explain himself and his policies, in detail and at length. Mitt Romney’s ability to do the same will increase the already obvious and deep differences between the GOP nominee and the incumbent. Every candidate in every race ought to note and emulate Walker’s directness. In this era of spin, spin, spin, a big dose of Rummy directness goes a long way with the public.


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