Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Value of a Visit

Well, it was nice of you, Secretary Rumsfeld. Now you can get back to Washington and give the soldiers what they need to win this war. The plan. The supplies. The armor. The way out of a war we can’t afford to fight forever, which we must win to protect our children.

To some people, the visit will be all that you need to prove your concern. A lot of people have too many other worries and not enough real knowledge of your mistakes to have a strong desire to keep you honest. Unfortunately, I can’t say I believe this isn’t just a P.R. stunt, like your boss’s surprise visit last year.

I mean, if this was meant to be just a surprise visit, why bother to bring a television crew along? It's not a surprise if everybody knows about it. And given the relentless coverage given to it, you can't say this wasn't meant to get attention

Once, quite some time ago, my mother and I saw you bringing wounded out of the Pentagon. We admired that, because it demonstrated the virtue that you didn't have to demonstrate. No sensible man risks death without some principle to give him courage. But plenty of men, competent and incompetent have done what you've done here and now, and have done it for reasons that have nothing to do with where one's sympathies might lie.

So why are you doing this, Mr. Secretary? You might dismiss my doubts because I'm a Democrat and a Liberal, and I've given you a hard time over the years, but just understand one thing: my problems with you aren't personal, though personal emotion figures into my response. They are entirely related to how you and others have carried out your job. Millions of Americans could give a crap less the political party under which a secretary serves, and under the right conditions, I'm one of those people.

But for me to put aside partisan impulses, I must be assured that I put it aside in the name of a common cause. Winning the war against terrorism is a common cause. A Campaign designed to remake the political landscape of the Middle East is not.

For me, fighting in a common cause does not mean pardoning you from your mistakes. You and your people have shown great stubbornness in even admitting to error. You can't seem to admit you're wrong, period. To me, this is a source of great dismay, especially in the light of all that has gone wrong. So many of us were dedicated to depriving you and your boss of your next four years of employment, because we believed you would be unwilling to redress your mistakes.

Now you have been publically called to task again for your error. And yes, whether it was intentional or not, it was an error, especially after you chose not to correct it. This time people listened because it was a soldier, not just some reporter who you guys would say had it in for you anyways.

Yes, that soldier had help, but help in expressing what he wanted to ask anyways. He asked you that question with no political agenda aside from getting better protection than hillbilly armor. For that he's been treated like a dupe, and was the subject of a veiled insult you gave out during one of your speeches on that surprise visit of yours. To me, the right answer was not excuses, rationalization, political positioning, but the simple and rather effective solution that has always been in your hands: getting the job done.

From the start, your people have had that option. You could have admitted mistakes early on and just gotten things done, not stored up the tension of distrust by the conflicts between your words, your actions and the situation as a whole.

In this post-9/11 world, we don't expect perfection or body counts with less than three figures, but we rightly expect higher standards of behavior, policy, and intelligence gathering. We know that our country cannot afford to linger in error indefinitely, especially not for the sake of the political anxieties of one party.

We have an enemy quite willing to strike at us, and all too capable of turning all your vain public relations endeavors and hollowing them out, as the Iraqi insurgents have done consistently throughout this war. Many of us know this, and therefore are not satisfied with placatory gestures, but instead demand action that yields real, tangible progress.

We would rather have elections that work than elections on schedule. We would rather have a policy that actually does its job, than one that merely gives the appearance of you doing yours. Yes, it's hard work, yes, conditions are never ideal, and yes, people may unfairly give you crap about the job you do. But you signed up to do a job with real consequences for our nation's security, and you must at some point stop blaming the people who merely make public your mistakes, and start dealing with those mistakes themselves. Otherwise neither you, nor anybody else is going to get out of this trouble without pain and suffering we can hardly afford to inflict on ourselves.

Start getting the armor there. Start mobilizing now. You're in the hole already, spend what you need to spend, and tell people you're doing what you have to. That will cause you political trouble, but that's something you could have avoided by admitting or avoiding your errors. It's not something you can really avoid anymore.

Stop worrying about keeping up appearances that most people in this country don't trust anymore. Don't just visit our troops and then go back to continue the errors of your ways. Take the lesson at it's face value, and do what you've got to do for the good of this country. Stop trying to escape the criticism. Start making it unnecessary.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 24, 2004 6:36 PM