Make No Mistake: They Disagree

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 10, 2006

There was a most unseemly public friction last week between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over whether tactical mistakes had been made in Iraq.

Rice had said there were lots; Rumsfeld, dismissing her as if she were a reporter, said there weren't any.

"How are things between you and the secretary of defense?" NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asked Rice on Thursday, after the two secretaries had lunch with national security adviser Stephen Hadley .

"Couldn't be better," Rice said, apparently seriously. "I think that what the secretary said was that he hadn't seen what I said."

Uh, no. Rumsfeld said: "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest." In addition, he said her comment might reflect "a lack of understanding . . . of what warfare is about."

Two Views From State

Interdepartmental warfare is common in any administration. But now there are signs of intradepartmental warfare as well.

During her appearance Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- which wanted to know more about the India nukes deal -- Condoleezza Rice had effusively praised India.

"India's society is open and free," the secretary of state said. "It is transparent and stable. It is multiethnic. It is a multi-religious democracy that is characterized by individual freedom and the rule of law. It is a country with which we share common values. India will soon be the world's most populous nation, and America's exports to India have doubled in only the past four years. And of course, India is a rising global power that we believe can be a pillar of stability in a rapidly changing Asia. In other words, in short, India is a natural partner for the United States."

Problem was that if this was the message of the day, either Rice didn't send it out or Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky didn't get the word. Dobriansky, that same day, was releasing a State Department human rights report -- discussing U.S. efforts in every country to promote human rights, that said this about India:

"The Government generally respected the rights of its citizens and continued efforts to curb human rights abuses, although numerous serious problems remained. These included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, custodial deaths, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture, poor prison conditions, and extended pretrial detention, especially related to combating insurgencies in Jammu and Kashmir. Societal violence and discrimination against women, trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution and labor, and female feticide and infanticide remained concerns. Poor enforcement of laws, widespread corruption, a lack of accountability, and the severely overburdened court system weakened the delivery of justice."

Well, any evolving democracy's got to have a couple little problems here and there. Look at newly democratic Iraq.

Spinning Wheels at the Lectern

Quick Loop Quiz! When is a lectern a car, a chair and a BlackBerry?

Answer: When Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) gives a late-night, way-too-late-night speech on immigration on the Senate floor Thursday.

"Mr. President, no matter how many times I call this lectern a car, it does not matter, this is not a car," Reid said. "This is a lectern, used here in the Senate for us to put our papers on and deliver a speech. This is not a car. If I come to the Senate floor and, day after day, hour after hour, call this a car, it is not a car. It is a lectern. If I come to this Senate floor day after day and say what the Democrats have done is unusual, unwarranted, unbelievable, it is wrong, it is as wrong as this lectern being called a car.

". . . The leader and I have gone back and forth so many times today that we are beating paths to our offices. There is no need that we -- I apologize to the chair and to Senator Byrd. I hope he's not watching. My BlackBerry. It went off a couple times, and I lost my concentration. I hope this legislation will move forward tomorrow. I know people feel that this lectern is a chair, but it is not. This is the Senate."

Then he sat down and drove off.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company