Thursday, September 23, 2004

A Reasonable Rumsfeld

Just a little linguistic observation here: has anyone ever noticed how wimpy Donald Rumsfeld would sound if you took away his rhetorical gimmick?

It's often been remarked how grizzled and manly The Donald sounds when he interrogates himself with silly rhetorical questions. This, of course, is an endlessly fun habit to imitate: A good friend wrote to me asking for suggestions for cat names; I suggested "Donald Rumsfeld," because I think cats have a sort of Rumsfeldian steely glare in their eyes, don't they? ("Would I like to just sit around and eat fish all day? Goodness me, yes. Is that likely to happen? Gracious, no. But are we going to look everywhere in this apartment until we find some fish and eat every last little bit of it? You're darn right we are.")

Anyway, today Rumsfeld was at it again. He had to explain why some parts of Iraq won't be participating in their new elections because they're too violent. As usual, The Donald was philosophical:

"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.

What I want to point out here is just how weak and snivelly Rumsfeld sounds if you take away his pet rhetorical gimmick. "Is it better than not having an election? You bet" sounds pretty tough, right? Now rephrase: "Well, it's better than not having an election" is the pinnacle of whiny excuse-making.

The substance of these two remarks is the same, of course. But without the weird self-interrogation, it sounds small and sad.

Of course, on a substantive level, it's dizzyingly goofy to defend our failure to secure huge chunks of Iraq by saying "Nothing's perfect in life." And calling an election in which only some of the country participates "not quite perfect" is like calling a man with one leg "not quite a pole-vaulter."

It's just denial wrapped in machismo. When you're losing, you need to admit it and fix it. "Come back here, I'll gum you to death" is not a viable policy.