At last, Rumsfeld departs the stage. So Michael’s breaking news story was absolutely correct and I do believe records will show that our man at Comedy Central was the first to report on this remarkable change by the administration. Update: Michael was indeed the first to report.
Yet again, Comedy Central leads actual news networks in reporting the news–scary. Congratulations to Michael on a world-class scoop.
Give Mr. Bush some credit for facing up to the shockingly obvious need for new leadership at DoD. Though it will undoubtedly disappoint Michael “Rumsfeld is the Best Secretary of Defense Ever” Novak and Mario “Rumsfeld Is My Hero” Loyola, it was the right move. Two years late, yes, but the right move. Too late to make any difference in Iraq? Almost certainly. But it was something that had to be done if Mr. Bush was going to have any credibility with anyone in the coming year. Without that, he would have been unable to get the kind of political support he would need to make any significant changes to the existing strategy (if, indeed, Mr. Gates represents a commitment to a significant change).
It was certainly too late to help restore some confidence in the administration before the elections. That is what is most inexplicable about making the move the day after: had they made sure that Rumsfeld departed the scene at the start of this year, the administration would not only have been doing the wise thing but also the politically successful thing. It would be a visible sign that the administration was willing to adapt and make major changes in top positions to try to retrieve the situation in Iraq, which would not only have improved confidence in the President and the war but might very well have produced some slightly more salutary results on the ground. Basic problems of a shortage of manpower would have remained, and these have ever been, as we all know, a chief cause of our woes in Iraq (I am not one who thinks that loads and loads of troops would have ultimately been more successful in helping unrealistic goals of political transformation, but they might well have succeeded in establishing a modicum of order). But why they waited this long to do what a great many people (including not a few prominent administration and war supporters–see The Economist) believed was necessary will continue to mystify us. Why Mr. Bush declared that Rumsfeld would remain for the rest of the term, when he must have already been preparing to ease him out the door, also remains unclear. Was it some lame stunt to mobilise true believers?
In any case, it was about time that he left.