Ah, Rummy. We've missed him. Really, we have. Nobody else in the Bush administration has his way with words. Current Defense Secretary Robert Gates can toss out a quote, sure, but he's just not capable of mindbenders of his predecessor's "unknown unknowns" variety.
So we were excited to see that the Washington Post had swiped a sampling of Rumsfeld's daily missives to staff (known as "snowflakes" because of their frequency) during his last four years running the Pentagon.
Unfortunately, these B-sides don't quite live up to his greatest hits. But here are a few choice cuts.
In a 2004 memo on the deteriorating situation in Iraq, he suggested that the bad vibes were all in our heads. Rumsfeld concluded that challenges were "not unusual" and said pessimistic news reports -- "our publics risk falling prey to the argument that all is lost" - simply result from the wrong standards being applied.
In May 2004, he considered rebranding the war America was fighting, weighing whether to redefine terrorism as a "worldwide insurgency." The goal of the enemy, he wrote, is to "end the state system, using terrorism, to drive non-radicals from the world." He then instructed his aides to "test what the results would be" if the war on terrorism were renamed. Apparently, those tests weren't so positive.
In the same memo, he complained that oil wealth had at times detached Muslims "from the reality of work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world. Too often Muslims are against physical labor, so they bring in Koreans and Pakistanis while their young people remain unemployed," he wrote. "An unemployed population is easy to recruit to radicalism."
Under siege in April 2006, when a series of retired generals denounced him and called for his resignation in newspaper op-ed pieces, he talked about the need to keep people scared. "Talk about Somalia, the Philippines, etc. Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists."
Many of the memos are the howls of a wounded man, individual pleas for rebuttals to reporters who wrote articles slamming him in his final months on the job. There's pathos in this, as well as an admirable work ethic. Despite being the oldest defense secretary in history (he was also the youngest, having held the job once before), he produced 20-60 of these snowflakes a day.
America The Grouchy
It's a year before election 2008, and Americans are in a historically foul mood, USA Today reports.
Most of us are dismayed by the country's direction, pessimistic about the Iraq war and anxious about the economy, the paper reports. Two out of three of us disapprove of the job President Bush is doing. Nearly a year after Democrats took control of Congress, three out of four of us say they're not achieving much either.
In all, 72 percent of those surveyed in a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Oct. 12-14 say they are dissatisfied with how things are going in the USA, while just 26 percent are satisfied. Not since April have even a third of Americans been happy with the country's course, the paper reports, making the last 6 months the "longest national funk in 15 years."
The last time things were so gloomy was in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted from the White House and H. Ross Perot got the highest percentage of the vote of any third-party candidate in 80 years. Bill Clinton was elected amidst economic angst.
So this time, things are just as bad, it seems, except we have the added downer of feeling like we've been here before: economic angst, an unpopular Bush in the White House, and a Clinton gunning to replace him.
Boy Tries To Hire Hit Man To Rub Out His Mother
Cory Ryder probably wasn't the only teenager to ever contemplate offing his mom after she banned him from his PlayStation. But he might be the only one to actually try to hire a hit man to do the deed and, as the Washington Post reports, be caught for it in a sting operation.
The sting was set up after Ryder, then 16 and having serious problems in his middle-class Southern Maryland home, mentioned to one of his friend's mothers that he wanted to have his mother killed. A detective was called, and the woman agreed to participate in a sting operation to see if Ryder was really serious.
An officer posed as a hit man in a hotel, and the woman took Ryder to the arranged meeting. Detectives say Ryder offered the undercover officer his stepfather's new pickup truck as payment to kill his mother and stepfather. "Two bullets is all it takes," he is alleged to have said.
He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. The state, with the support of his mother, wanted to try him as an adult. But a judge ruled that he would be tried as a juvenile. His mother is still expected to testify against him as a witness for the state.
"He needs to understand what he did was wrong," she said. "I'm scared to death that if this kid is serious, and they put him in a three-month program, they're going to release him to the street."
Ryder said he was upset when his parents kicked him out of the house and that he felt pressure to talk to the man in the hotel, according to an agency report. He told them that he never intended to have his parents killed and that he wanted to call the police himself that night in the hotel room.
His lawyers suggested that he may have heard the "two bullets" comment on television and repeated it without meaning it. In court, he accused the boy's mother and stepfather of giving up as parents.
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