Wednesday November8, 2006 was a wildly compelling day to watch television news. Against the backdrop of finalizing election returns and results, a stunning portrait of American politics and governance was playing out for everyone to see. And although each character had a clearly identifiable role to play, watching it unfold under the glare of television camera lights was at once illuminating and breathtaking in its clarity.
George W. Bush reprised his role of the inarticulate and yet unbending leader of the Republican Party, divorced from current reality and unable to seemingly grasp the sea change he both orchestrated and yet got snared in. Caught scriptless by the cameras and a cadre of national news reporters who were unabashed in their efforts to eke out admissions of missteps or signs of any newfound flexibility in the President's attitude toward forging new paths, Bush squirmed and bristled and ultimately got caught in a political prevarication. And immediately got called on it. But that wasn't news to anyone who has had their ear to the ground over the last six years.
A few hours later, in the Oval Office, Bush was relentless in his praise of the man and mentor he had been forced to cut loose, lavishing praise on Donald H. Rumsfeld that would humble and embarass any mere mortal. It was painfully clear that despite the resounding roar of disapproval from the American people Bush has just endured 24 hours earlier, his faith in his Secretary of Defense was not shaken. It was also obvious that this resignation was borne more of political expediency than of any "coming to Jesus" over the misguided course of American activity in Iraq and the Middle East.
Enter Rummy, stage left. Where Bush had been cranky and defensive in his tone and tenor, Rumsfeld took the lecturn with a Quixotic look in his eye. Once again, as has been his mein since he wrestled control of foreign and defense policy first from Colin Powell and then Condi Rice, Rumsfeld tried to explain to the pathetically misguided media and ignorant American populace that we just weren't smart enough to grasp the complexities of this war.
"The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in the stars, it is in ourselves!" We just didn't GET IT!
And that's a big "we" that, to Rumsfeld's mind, includes not just the irresponsible media who dogged him or the American people who lost faith in him, that "we" also fatally included the generals charged with carrying out his ill-conceived directives and who withered under his rigid inability to take their counsel, borne of battlefield reality, to heart.
To the last moment of his time upon the stage, Rumsfeld was unbowed and unburdened of the truth. And as his champion looked on in pained frustration, enter Robert M. Gates, 41's CIA director, to take the helm and pick up the pieces.
While I have not one ounce of faith in any administration headed by George W. Bush, I hold out a glimmer of hope that a former CIA Director will have the moral courage to convince Bush Junior FINALLY of this simple truth: that the key to keeping us safe from terrorist activity on American soil is and has always been a combination of well articulated diplomacy bolstered by a strong and relentless Central Intelligence Agency capable of sniffing out, intercepting and averting the next plane (or dirty bomb) before it gets here.
Hubris has no place in American domestic or foreign policy. If George W. Bush has learned anything in the last week, I hope he realizes now that spreading democracy across the Middle East is not and never was his job. Keeping us safe is. And he can do that best by keeping his mouth shut and letting his experts do the talking.