Before I get to the main content of this post I have to say something. I cannot remember enjoying my blogroll as much as I have this morning. The results of Tuesday's election together with Rumsfeld's announced departure yesterday have made the last twenty-four hours seem like a long draft of cold beer on a hot day, followed by a chaser of hard liquor. With few exceptions the mood everywhere is as high as Times Square on New Year's Eve.
Best summary is from Fred Clark...
Enough of that.
OK, um, wow. And perhaps also Woo-hoo! And a bit of bwaaaa-ha-ha-ha!
Belgravia Dispatch takes a sober look at Bush's replacement for Secretary of Defense and is optimistic.
...better than late than never...
...at least there is hope now. We will have a Secretary of Defense who displays pragmatism and humility, not recklessness and hubris. We will have a Secretary of Defense in favor of occasionally speaking to our enemies, not intimating mindlessly and unpersuasively that the war might be expanded to new theaters willy-nilly (see Gates' signing on to an excellent CFR task force calling for dialogue with Iran). We will have a Secretary of Defense who would never play Secretary of State, needlessly alienating allies with talk of "Old Europe", or battering our reputation in the Middle East by using gratuitous phrases like the "so-called Occupied Territories". We will have a Secretary of Defense who will display a much more sophisticated understanding of the myriad challenges presented in Iraq and Afghanistan--not to mention the war on terror more generally (an increasingly empty phrase in need of a radical rethink, of which more soon). And, not least, we will have a Secretary of Defense who understands the import of the Geneva Conventions, of the advisability of treating detainees in our custody with respect and dignity, in accordance with
what we used to call American values. In short, we will have a competent pragmatist armed with fresh strategic lens, not an arrogant well past his prime and beholden to the failed polices of the past.
Lots more at the link, including "While it is true Cheney is still around...he is a much diminished figure who, to boot, just lost his main ally today," concluding with...
...while the damage done has been huge, our country has faced dark hours before, and she has persevered. As I said above, Bush’s move today was no panacea, and he reluctantly took this step because of the ‘thumping’ he received--and as tactical maneuver to deflate some of the Democrat’s momentum—not out of some sudden burst of profound sagacity. But still, he did it, and we must all hope that, now with the seismic shift in Congress and a new Defense Secretary, we just might have a sliver of hope that America's global position can now be ameliorated, both in Iraq and elsewhere, something so critically needed after the gross missteps commited these past years that have caused such a grevious loss of blood and treasure, as well as deep blows to our moral standing and repute.
The president gets thrashed pretty hard in the comments thread for not having got rid of Rumsfeld earlier. At some level I agree but I remember something that JFK was supposed to have said about the presidency, to the effect that after one is elected he cannot trust anyone who had not been a supporter and friend before. Becoming president is like getting a large fortune. The lover who comes courting may be attracted to mind, looks or character...but there will always be that unspoken possibility that money and power are the real attractions behind the smiles.
I give Bush high marks for sincerity, candor and support of subordinates. And his subordinates get high marks for their loyalty. The main problem with the Bush administration has been the creation of such a tightly-controlled cadre of high-minded, otherwise brilliant sycophants that no one with a differing opinion could get past the door.
Like the mule who needed a two-by-four to get his attention, maybe the results of Tuesday's voting will have some effect on George Bush's management style. We'll see.
Or maybe not.