The Vice President's declaration at Friday's Pentagon sendoff for Don Rumsfeld that Rumsfeld was the best secretary of defense in U.S. history (which really means since the Department of Defense was created in 1948, not since the Revolution) was widely panned, deservedly.
But the comment that left me shaking by head came from Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace: "Secretary Rumsfeld accepted the responsibility and not once, in public or in private, did I ever hear this man try to shift responsibility to anyone else but himself."
I have never seen a public figure as adept at passing the buck, often very slyly, as Don Rumsfeld. It has been one of my biggest pet peeves about Rumsfeld, especially when he lays the blame at the feet of the uniformed military, which he has done repeatedly and shamelessly, since the chain of command mostly hamstrings the military from playing hardball in kind.
So I thought I would gather up some of Rumsfeld's best buck-passers to illustrate the point:
April 1, 2003, on the initial Iraq invasion plan: "I keep getting credit for it in the press, but the truth is, I would be happy to take credit for it but I can't. It was not my plan, it was General Franks' plan, and it was a plan that evolved over a sustained period of time, which I am convinced is an excellent plan."
December 6, 2004, on Iraq: "I don't think anyone would say that the intelligence left anyone with the impression that you'd be in the degree of insurgency you're in today."
"The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that's really out of my control. I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine. But the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted."
December 8, 2004, on up-armored humvees: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. Theyâre not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe â itâs a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment. I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that theyâre working at it at a good clip."
June 26, 2005, on whether he tried to fight the Iraq War "on the cheap": "[T]his is not a decision I make; this is a decision that's made by the military commanders. General Franks, General Abizaid, General Casey have decided what those numbers are. They've recommended them to me. I've recommended them to the president. I agree with them. I think they're right."
April 17, 2006, on the Iraq war plan: "Of course the implication that there was something wrong with the war plan is amusing almost because of the fact that the war planâs fashioned by the combatant commanders and itâs reviewed in great detail by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then itâs recommended to me and the President."
November 10, 2006, on role of other departments in the failure of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan: "Their success has been limited because these activities too often are thought to remain almost exclusively in the responsibility of the Department of Defense," he said. "National security policies can no longer be separate into functions of defense, diplomacy and development."
December 15, 2006, on what happened at Abu Ghraib: "Well, it's pretty clear that on that midnight shift, for a period of some weeks, there were people there who were behaving in a way that was fundamentally inconsistent with the president's instruction to treat people humanely, my instructions that they were to treat people humanely. And they were, for the most part, people involved who weren't doing interrogations."
If you have your own personal favorites, please pass them along.