Bush convened a meeting in the Situation Room on Friday morning. According to several who were present, the president was agitated. Turning to the man seated at his immediate left, Bush barked, “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”
Thanks, George - my feelings exactly. Apparently, Rumsfeld was somewhat obsessively concerned about mandates in general and did not want anyone encroaching on areas that fell under his mandate.
I buy that argument. Over the past few years, Bush has made the impression of someone who knows he didn't get everything right and understands that his time is over. He has somewhat gracefully slid back into private life and accepted the end of his tenure (unlike Cheney). I can imagine that he was genuinely distressed by the situation in New Orleans.
In contrast, Donald Rumsfeld consistently pursued his agenda with little regard for anyone else. A few years ago, the BBC produced a fantastic documentary entitled "The Power of Nightmares," which can be viewed in full here. Rumsfeld is shown on a video back in the mid-1970s (skip roughly to minute 25:30), when President Richard Nixon was interested in detente with the Soviet bloc. Rumsfeld explains that even though US intelligence agents cannot find any evidence of the Soviet unions stockpiling its missiles even further,
The Soviet Union has been busy. They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons.
In other words, if no missiles could be found in the Soviet Union, it wasn't because the USSR was not making them -- it was because they were simply too good at hiding them. (The CIA said Rumsfeld was full of it. History agrees.) The wording reminds one of Rumsfeld's famous "unknown knowns" speech some 25 years later. The same kind of paranoid thinking insisted only a few years ago that there must be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- because we couldn't find them.
Never to be countered by colleagues, when Rumsfeld was told that he personally needed to authorize National Guard troops to enter New Orleans, he responded by saying he didn't agree. The man simply did not like to be told what to do.
So George, I guess you're off the hook for leaving my people on bridges and overpasses for most of the week. And Rummy, I guess you're on the hook.