The Rumsfeld-Must-Go drumbeat continues. (Click here and here to read previous installments.) Al Kamen reports in the Sept. 7 Washington Post that Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri and Sean O’Keefe, a former Navy secretary now serving as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, are both being talked about on Capitol Hill as possible Rumsfeld replacements. Skelton is a Democrat who’s skeptical about missile defense, but he wants to enlarge the Pentagon’s overall budget. And OMB, apparently, has been rolling over Rumsfeld on budget decisions. Kamen says Rumsfeld can’t resign before Christmas because that would make his term more humiliatingly brief than the famously disastrous Les Aspin’s. But of course, it isn’t certain Rumsfeld will have much say in the matter.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and Post editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt (who used to cover the Pentagon) have sprung to Rummy’s defense, portraying him as the victim of a cynical and corrupt Washington political culture. Ignatius specifically points the finger at New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who labeled him “Rip Van Rummy” for failing to grasp the ways in which Washington grew more vicious between the 1970s, when Rummy last served as Defense secretary, and 2001. (“It takes a certain perspective for a person to characterize 25 years in the private sector as a nap,” Rumsfeld retorted. It was a good comeback but had the unfortunate effect of confirming that he’d read the column and felt wounded by it.) The predominant view toward Rumsfeld, however, echoes Dowd. “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld–one of the most skilled fighters in this town in the 1970s–makes Colin Powell’s tenure appear triumphant,” wrote Al Hunt in the Sept. 6 Wall Street Journal. This is a bruising allusion to Time magazine’s insulting “Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?” cover story in the Sept. 10 issue. To quote Rick Moranis in Little Shop of Horrors, “the guy sure looks like plant food to me.”