Rumsfeld and the Troops

RUMSFELD AND THE TROOPS….Talk about missing the point. Glenn Reynolds reacts to Donald Rumsfeld’s petulant ? and now infamous ? performance in front of the troops yesterday with a discussion of whether armored vehicles are better than non-armored ones.

But go read Spencer Ackerman’s summary of Rumsfeld’s performance. Sure, we ought to have more armor for our Humvees by now, but this isn’t really a question of armor, it’s a question of respect:

Today, he came face to face with pissed-off frontline soldiers. And he treated them with the same arrogance and condescension that their superior officers have come to expect. To the question about unequal retirement benefits for equal service, Secretary Marie Antoinette replied, “I can’t imagine anyone your age worrying about retirement. Good grief.”

Indeed. Hard to imagine an average joe worrying about retirement. Who does this grunt think he is?

It is genuinely to Rumsfeld’s credit that he talked with the troops and took their questions. But these aren’t hardened politicians on Capitol Hill, and they deserved better than Rumsfeld gave them.

The whole thing is inexplicable. I remember years ago the first time I had to face a hostile crowd (in my case, nothing worse than a bunch of sales guys and distributors), and I probably did as badly as Rumsfeld. But you learn some lessons pretty quickly after you’ve done this a few times, and what you learn is that even if you can’t satisfy all their requests you can keep things on an even keel just by showing some respect, acknowledging that they have good points, and promising to work their issues when you get home. They might not be completely satisfied, but they won’t boo you out of the hall either.

Rumsfeld has been doing this kind of thing a hell of a lot longer than I have, and the fact that he apparently still hasn’t learned this lesson says something about his character. And it’s not something good.