Wednesday, December 15, 2004

McCain puts 'curse' on Rumsfeld

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

Critics of the imperious Donald Rumsfeld come and go, and most are ignored as mere annoying gnats to be brushed off with contempt and disdain.

But John McCain is no gnat and doesn't grovel as others are inclined to do in the Defense secretary's presence.

In a vilification that is as close as it comes to a curse, McCain told The Associated Press on Monday he has "no confidence" in Rumsfeld.

McCain can't be idly dismissed. As a onetime Navy captain and combat jet pilot as well as Vietnam POW who endured unimaginably painful torture and suffering and built a national following with his straight talk, McCain accomplishes the improbable simply because of his straight-shooter reputation and unvarnished persona.

Item: Pentagon brass chuckled with derision as McCain vowed to scuttle the $23 billion aerial tanker deal for 100 leased Boeing 767s, calling the arrangement a rip-off. Single-handedly, McCain unraveled the deal. And two Boeing executives, including one who was a former Pentagon official who helped rig the deal, have been sent to jail.

Item: McCain also blocked the promotions of several generals and derailed the nomination of Air Force Secretary James Roche to become secretary of the Army because of their roles in the Boeing scandal. Roche is leaving the Bush administration next month, a man humiliated and beaten into submission by McCain.

As for Rumsfeld, he's demonstrably the most unpopular member of the Bush Cabinet and a growing political liability. Republicans and Democrats have joined McCain in complaints about Rumsfeld's mismanagement of the Iraq war and other decisions creating unneeded headlines.

Last week it was the Tennessee GI who confronted Rumsfeld about armorless vehicles. Rumsfeld and his nest of rightwing Pentagon neocons masterminding the war also have blundered by filing dumb, unfounded "spy" charges against several military officers.

Astonishingly, several soldiers who lacked equipment in Iraq have also been convicted by courts martial for "scrounging" abandoned vehicles to complete their missions, which amounts to being punished for overcoming the logistical incompetence and negligence of the Pentagon.

Reservist lawsuits are challenging Rumsfeld's order extending military service as an illegal breach of contract. And cost overruns of hundreds of millions of dollars by Halliburton on no-bid contracts have shattered Rumsfeld's self-styled image as a competent manager.

Hardly an inspiring portrait of the man who sends troops into battle, spends billions of dollars every day and won't correct mistakes.

If McCain is considering a presidential re-run in 2008, taking on Rumsfeld is bound to touch a wide audience of voters and give McCain the aura of a champion against wrong.

Rumsfeld is a failure in progress. McCain's vote of no confidence seems more justified every day.

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