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Secretary On the Offensive

Asked by Rep. John M. McHugh (R-N.Y.) for his position on soldiers' death benefits, Rumsfeld replied: "As a presidential appointee, I tend to support the president."

Rumsfeld responded to Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) as he often scolds journalists: "You had so many questions there. Now let me see if I can pull out another one." As the exchange with Forbes continued, Rumsfeld requested: "Could you speak up a little bit?"

The "new Rumsfeld" bristled at questions from both parties. (Haraz Ghanbari -- AP)

_____Hearing Transcript_____
Full Text: Defense Sec. Rumsfeld's appearance in front of the House Armed Services Committee

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Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) pressed Rumsfeld on whether he had talked with an aide who was quoted last month as saying Congress had been too generous in expanding military retirement benefits. "No, I have not, nor have I seen the statement that you've quoted in the context that it might have been included," the defense secretary replied.

Rumsfeld seemed to be spoiling for a fight from the start, when in his opening statement he implicitly chided Congress for "an increasingly casual regard for the protection of classified documents and information."

When the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), asked about the number of insurgents in Iraq, the secretary said, "I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." (He presumably meant to say "intelligence.") Ultimately, Rumsfeld admitted he had estimates at his fingertips. "I've got two in front of me," he said.

"Could you share those with us?" Skelton inquired.

Not just now, Rumsfeld said. "They're classified."

In Europe last week, Rumsfeld joked that he was no longer the "old Rumsfeld" who disdainfully referred to France and Germany as "Old Europe."

But Wednesday, he made it clear that the new Rumsfeld would not be a softy. When he scolded Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) by saying she incorrectly described his role, Tauscher inquired: "Is that old Rumsfeld talking to me now?"

"I think so," Rumsfeld said, smiling.

"I'd prefer new Rumsfeld," she requested.

"No, you don't," he said.

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