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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

06 December 2005

Donald Rumsfeld

Yesterday, I had the chance to listen to the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Whatever one thinks of his politics, there is no doubt that this is a charismatic man. His ability to warm up an audience and then entertain it is almost unparalleled—his Q&A was very much like stand up comedy. I can imagine why he can be frustrating for the press to deal with—it seems like his chief function in a Q&A is to ridicule, in a good way (if there is such a thing), you and your questions. But he pulls it off so well that it is hard to escape his charm.

Another thing that struck me was his seriousness and straightforwardness. Unlike other people in the Bush Administration, I feel that Secretary Rumsfeld is much less willing to deny the obvious (VP Dick Cheney comes to mind as a person who often fails that test). He will explain in plain and unequivocal terms what he wants to say (rhetorical misgivings notwithstanding).

This was particularly true when he spoke yesterday about the Iraq war and listed all the things that could have gone wrong but didn’t, giving a sense of perspective into the worst-case scenario that the administration had considered. It was also true as he spoke about the press and their coverage of the war. While his exchanges with the press are often edgy, I find that he is right to bring up the idea that there are two divergent views on Iraq, an optimistic and a pessimistic, that do not seem to get equal coverage in the media.

The largest issue of contention, in the post-speech buzz, was whether his personal charm compensates for his policies. Here I found a majority, but not nearly a consensus, with the following idea: that we (the audience) are wise enough not to be charmed by a man to the extent that he could change our views on things. Many went to listen to him because he is the secretary, and maybe even to be entertained given his reputation for humor. While I can see people being offended by his style (to say nothing for his politics), my overall impression was more casual: it was a great thing to on a Monday morning, but we are ready to move on now.

Link to the speech and to the Q&A


Anonymous Peter said...

Nikos, out of curiosity, were there any frank admissions from Rumsfeld on liabilities in the American efforts in Iraq, or what mistakes the US inevitably tripped into while carrying out the war?

It's admittedly rare to expect such admissions from current members of the executive government. But without them, the candor you mention would not seem to be complete, and for all Rumsfeld's charming bravado, he would just be a re-articulation of the ostrich's head rhetoric we hear constantly from Bush, Cheney, Rice, et al.

2:57 PM  

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