Rumsfeld: Lightning Rod or Anchor?

By Abc_nancy

Sep 7, 2006 11:50am

ABC News’ chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos blogs on the Senate’s potential no confidence vote on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
An email from an anonymous WH staffer to infamous former FEMA Director Mike Brown is strong evidence that President Bush knows the valuable of a political lightning rod:  "At the Cabinet meeting," wrote the emailer, "I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the President replied "I’d rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff." If that conventional political calculus holds in the case of Donald Rumsfeld, then the Democrats may be making a mistake by trying to force a vote of no confidence in the Senate today.  Rumsfeld takes the heat instead of the President, and it also provides an opportunity for vulnerable Republicans to get some distance from the failures of Iraq without abandoning the President’s policy.  Many, like Chuck Hagel and John McCain, have been critical of Rumsfeld for some time; more recently GOP Senate candidates like Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey and Steve Laffey in Rhode Island have hit on a similar tactic. It will be interesting to see if Majority Leader Bill Frist today decides to let the Dems have their vote so a Senator in a tight race like Mike Dewine of Ohio can go on the record with their displeasure too.
But Democrats are convinced that Rumsfeld has become more of an anchor than a lightning rod for the President.   By hanging on to Rumsfeld, they believe, the President is holding on to past mistakes that are weighing him down politically.And they want this vote precisely because they believe it will make it impossible for Bush to throw the anchor overboard. We’ll have a sure sense of who’s right on November 7th.  For today, it will be interesting to see if Frist feels the pressure to let the vote take place.

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