April 17, 2006 -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to the friendliest of audiences today to defend his leadership -- the Rush Limbaugh radio program.
The military leader was interviewed by the nationally syndicated talk show host amid pressure from six generals who demanded that Rumsfeld step down over the handling of Iraq.
Rumsfeld told listeners how he handles the criticism.
"Well, you know, this too will pass," Rumsfeld said. "I think about it and I must say, there's always two sides to these things, and the sharper the criticism comes, sometimes the sharper the defense comes from people who don't agree with the critics."
Rumsfeld cited the retired generals who have come to his defense -- including former Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers and Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The defense is part of an aggressive Pentagon pushback against the retired generals who have called for Rumsfeld's resignation. To rebut the detractors, four retired generals were quoted in today's Wall Street Journal as saying that Rumsfeld is "arguably one of the most effective secretaries of defense our nation has ever had."
The article echoed almost word for word the arguments made in a recent Pentagon talking points memo listing the exact number of meetings Rumsfeld had last year with senior military commanders and the chiefs of the military services.
Breaking a Code of Silence
Active duty military officers are forbidden by the Uniform Code of Military Justice from using "contemptuous words" against the civilian leadership.
Even from retired officers, such calls for the resignation of the defense secretary are extremely unusual and have prompted a backlash from other retired generals.
"Maneuvering as retired officers to somehow engineer the removal of a secretary crosses a different line, and I think it brings into question what is the role of the military in our society," Gen Jack Keane said.
On Tuesday Rumsfeld will meet with roughly a dozen influential military officials in a closed meeting at the Pentagon.