Bush Calls Rumsfeld "Fantastic," Boehner Calls Him "Marvelous." Get Out Your Dictionaries, And Lo And Behold, They're (By Some Definitions) Correct
In the last couple of days, President Bush and House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have come to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's defense.
But they have done so, perhaps inadvertently, using words -- Bush said "fantastic," Boehner said "marvelous" -- that have both positive and negative meanings.
Those of us in the fact-based universe -- including quite a few Republicans, quite a few retired generals, and quite a few soldiers -- disapprove of Rumsfeld and/or want him to resign, because Rumsfeld has done a terrible job of managing the Iraq War, or supporting the troops in general.
As unlikely as it sounds, maybe we can take solace in the fact that if and when Bush decides Rumsfeld must go, he and Boehner won't sound like complete idiots now. They can merely spin that what sounded like praise was actually a sign of their disatisfaction.
Mind you, I'm being sarcastic. But what other choice is there when it's so obvious that Rumsfeld is not up to the task at hand?
U.S. military commanders assessed two weeks ago that Iraq was edging toward chaos, according to a classified military chart published in the New York Times on Wednesday.
Consider these statements, from Republicans:
-- "We're on the verge of chaos, and the current plan is not working," Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), said last month.
-- "We cannot continue doing the same things and expect different results. We have to adapt our operations, adapt our tactics," Sen. George Allen (R-VA) said last month.
-- In August, Gen. John Abizaid, the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, raised the prospect that Iraq could be sliding toward civil war. Abizaid said, “I believe that the sectarian violence is probably is as bad as I’ve seen it in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.” Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I believe we do have the possibility of that devolving to a civil war.”
Who ultimaely is responsible for military strategy, for combatting the insurgency, for getting Iraq on the right track? If it's not Rumsfeld, then I guess I don't understand the concept of "Defense Secretary."
But what about the troops? Isn't it the Defense Secretary's job to "support the troops?" But consider:
– A not-insignificant portion of the military’s equipment is outdated and/or below standard: Nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans said equipment was below the military standard of being 90 percent operational, while one in three said their Humvees and trucks were not up-armored when they arrived in-country.
– The military faces severe manpower shortages: Currently, the Army has “close to zero combat-ready brigades in reserve” and the National Guard is "in an even more dire situation than the active Army.” Sixty-three percent of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe the Army and Marine Corps are overextended.
-- Rumsfeld was silent after the Republican-led Congress voted to slash funding for the research and treatment of brain injuries caused by bomb blasts, an injury that military scientists describe as a signature wound of the Iraq war.
So maybe it makes sense, in a perverse way, that Bush said that Rumsfeld is doing a "fantastic job."
Bush was using the word informally, or as the dictionary defines "fantastic": Informal use, extraordinarily good.
But in fact, there are three more common definitions of the word that fit Rumsfeld -- who we have to assume agrees with Bush -- much better:
Definition #1: Conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre;
Definition #2: Imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality; foolish or irrational;
Definition #3: Highly unrealistic or impractical; outlandish.
Similarly, Boehner said Rumsfeld was doing a "marvelous job." But marvelous is another word that has positive and negative meanings.
Boehner probably meant it to mean "superb; excellent; great" or "such as to cause wonder, admiration, or astonishment; surprising; extraordinary."
But for the majority of Americans, Rumsfeld better fits the third meaning of the word: "improbable or incredible."
If and when Bush and Boehner see the light and Rumsfeld is finally sent home packing, remember that at least technically, these Republican "leaders" weren't flip-flopping.