This is a dirty, dirty business. If you watched CNN's Crossfire tonight you saw Richard Perle, an Assistant Secretary of Defense from the Reagan administration, talking about strategy in the United States' war against terrorism. In particular he was distinguishing between President Bush's strategy and that emanating from the State Department, i.e., from Colin Powell. I don't have the transcript in front of me. But to put it bluntly he was saying that Powell was pursuing a foolish policy of coalition building and undermining or ignoring the stated wishes of the president.
Tough words. But not so unexpected from someone with Perle's politics and temperament.
Only that's not the whole story. Because Perle's not really a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. Or at least that's not all he is. He's also the Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. He's got an office in the E-ring of the Pentagon, a floor away from Rumsfeld's office.
In other words, he's a part of this administration. CNN was either dishonest or asleep at the switch in how they chose to identify him.
(As a side note, my understanding is that part of the reason Perle was given this job is that administration hawks really wanted to bring him in but knew there was no way to give him a position that requires Senate confirmation. And this position doesn't require it.)
Different appointees of an administration will sometimes criticize each other, certainly. But junior appointees at the Defense Department do not go on TV and explicitly accuse the Secretary of State of ignoring the president's wishes or undermining his policies.
So what's going on here? Can this really be allowed to continue? Can the Secretary of State or the President's dignity abide this? And where's Rumsfeld on all this? Can we, i.e., the American people, really put up with this kind of crap at what we are told, rightly, is a time of national crisis and mobilization?
This is a big deal. And it's not a laughing matter.