Letter from the Editor 

I know it's been a week since Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I know a week is an eternity in our 24-hour-news-cycle world. But I'm still dazzled by his performance and particularly by his amazing ability to interview himself.

For example, Rumsfeld was asked whether there was a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Simple question, right? You could answer by saying, "Yes, the Taliban presence has increased." Or "No. Everything's pretty much the way it was four years ago."

Here's what Rummy had to say: "Are there still Taliban around? You bet. Are they occupying safe havens in Pakistan and other places? Certainly, they are. Is the violence up? Yes. Does the violence tend to be up during the summer, in the spring, summer, and fall months? Yes it does. And it tends to decline during the winter period. Does that represent failed policy? I don't know. I would say not."

Brilliant. According to Rumsfeld, the Taliban are a seasonal problem, kind of like heat rash. And he even threw a few follow-up questions at himself. But, bottom line, he didn't answer the question. Which raises another question: Why is a 74-year-old man who holds one of the most important jobs in America, responding to questions from U.S. senators like a teenage boy caught with a Playboy magazine under his mattress.

"Is this your magazine, son?"

"Is it a Playboy magazine? Yes. Was it under my mattress? You bet. Do I tend to pick it up more at night, in the morning, late evening? Yes, I do. Will it be under my mattress tomorrow? I don't know. I would say not."

My parents wouldn't have (okay, didn't) let me get away with that kind of crap, so why are U.S. senators letting the Secretary of Defense play semantic games with issues of grave national consequence?

Rumsfeld later claimed that the senators would have "a dickens of a time" finding evidence of him painting a "rosy picture" of the situation in Iraq. It was a lie so bold and bald-faced it took your breath away. Within minutes, examples of Rumsfeld's rosy verbal pictures were all over the Internet.

So why does this man still have his job? I'll let Rummy answer: "Do I still have a job? Yes, certainly. Do we know why? No. Is this just nuts? I would say yes."

Bruce VanWyngarden, Editor

brucev@MemphisFlyer.com

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