Monday, May 10, 2004

The one vote that really matters?
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has come out in support of embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling him the best person the United States has had in the post.

"As a former secretary of defense, I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," the vice president said in a statement relayed to CNN through a spokesman Saturday.

"People ought to let him do his job".
Cheney made these comments in the midst of increasing Republican criticism of the Pentagon and of Rumsfeld. In particular it seems designed to head off any blowback from Rep. Steve Buyer who offered to go to Iraq last year and oversee the prisons but was rejected explicitly on the order of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In effect, by calling Rumsfeld the "best secretary of defense the United States has ever had," Cheney is upping the ante against Republican critics. After all, how do you fire the best Secretary of Defense ever and retain even the pretence of credibility on matters of war and defense?

Cheney may even be playing a game of chicken with Republicans, daring them to swerve first in order to prevent the entire administration from crashing into internal condemnation and fatally damaging Bush and Cheney's chances in November.

UPDATE: I should have included senators sitting on the Armed Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee in the list of Republicans against whom Cheney is playing chicken: Graham (R-SC), McCain (R-AZ) and Warner (R-VA).

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