The enunciation of a clear sentence about the war in Iraq by Hillary Clinton means that there must be an election coming up.
Until now, she has been unsubtly subtle about the most urgent issue facing the country, sending signals rightward, sending signals leftward, tacking here, tacking there. Some days she seemed to be signaling whether she intended to signal.
But now, suddenly, she’s a woman of passion, a model of concerned clarity. After an eon of calculated silence on most of the big moral questions of the day, there is a calculated breaking of the silence. The enigma won’t play anymore. It’s time for the drama.
But the drama played like “The Taming of the Shrew,” with the only question being, who was the shrew?
Hillary was trying to bring Rummy to heel, and Rummy was trying to exert manly control over Hillary.
The junior senator from New York staged a drama in three acts, first sending a letter summoning the reluctant Rummy to appear before the Armed Services Committee; then hectoring him with a litany of his “numerous errors in judgment”; and finally at the end of the day, like the Queen of Hearts, delivering her climactic demand for his head.
“I just don’t understand why we can’t get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around,” Senator Clinton said after the hearing, summing up a truth acknowledged by everyone except W. and Dick Cheney, and particularly felt at the Pentagon, where the deeply unpopular defense chief has gone from self-styled matinee idol to self-destructing idle martinet.
During the hearing, Hillary unmanned Rummy, as Shakespeare would say, accusing him of incompetence, impotence and improbity.
“You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order,’’ she said. “You disbanded the entire Iraqi Army. Now we’re trying to recreate it. You did not do enough planning for what is called phase four and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence and the spread of Iranian influence.”
She pointed out that the administration succeeds only in achieving the opposite of its aims — with the number of American troops in Iraq scheduled to increase, not decrease, and the violence and instability spreading.
She cited the administration’s reality disconnect on the Taliban in Afghanistan, where every new claim of success has been followed by new evidence of failure. The Taliban have been written out of the war by administration flackery, but they keep coming back like Mel Gibson’s hangovers and apologies.
She tartly summed up: “Because of the administration’s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?”