Thursday, May 06, 2004

Has Donald Rumsfeld Jumped The Shark?

In an unprecedented display of cabinet level discord, White House officials, under the order of President Bush, have made public the fact that the President chastised Donald Rumsfeld over his handling of the growing prisoner abuse scandal yesterday. In particular, Bush was upset that Rumsfeld had not informed him of the scandal earlier and, according to Bush, "he only learned the graphic details of the abuse after watching the telecast of 60 Minutes II last Wednesday."

As a testament to the magnitude of the scandal, Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, according to an article in today's New York Times, "has told one Bush adviser that he believes that it will take a generation for the United States to live this scandal down in the Arab world."

According to the Times, Rumsfeld also faced increasing pressure from members of both parties on Capitol Hill:

"No member of the Senate had any clue," said Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "This is entirely unacceptable. I think it's a total washout as far as communications, and it has to be rectified."

Democrats were even more caustic. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, stopped just short of calling for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, saying that if the blame went all the way to Mr. Rumsfeld's office, he should step down. "This is a disaster of significant proportions," Mr. Biden said. "It calls for accountability and quickly."

Senator Trent Lott, Republican from Mississippi, complained that members of the Senate were not given copies of the Taguba Report, that Seymour Hersh relied on in writing his piece in The New Yorker. According to an irate Lott, he had to download a copy from the NPR website. I wonder if Lott will consider the value of National Public Radio the next time the funding bill comes up?

So the question remains, given the mounting criticism from both parties, and the President himself, has Donald Rumsfeld jumped the shark? If so, can you identify the moment when the darling of the White House press corp, known for his witty, if vague, responses, who endeared himself to millions of Americans especially during his Afghanistan press conferences, jumped?

Definition of Terms: "Jumping the Shark:" As defined on the website, is the seminal moment when you know that something has reached its peak, and from then on it is all downhill. Taken literally, it was the episode of Happy Days when the Fonz jumped the shark on a pair of water skis marking the point where the show began its spiral of decay that culminated with the introduction of Ted McGinley and the spinoffs of Joanie and Chachi.

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