Meet the Secretary of Serenity
In nature, the opossum is known to play dead when threatened. In politics, that trait can now be observed in Donald Rumsfeld.
At yesterday's Pentagon news conference, the volatile defense secretary was expected to come out swinging at the retired generals who have called for his ouster in recent days because of his autocratic style and his mistakes in Iraq. But instead, the Pentagon press corps was greeted by Zen Rummy.
"I kind of would prefer to let a little time walk over it," he said when asked about the generals' gripes.
A questioner asked about the "great deal of dissatisfaction" with him in the military. "There are always differences of opinion," Rumsfeld answered mildly.
How come he offered to resign in the past but not now? "Oh," the secretary said sweetly, "just call it idiosyncratic."
CNN's Jamie McIntyre tried harder to provoke Rumsfeld. "How much do you think this is about your management style?"
"No idea," the unflappable one replied.
"Well, quick follow-up: To the charge that you're arrogant and autocratic --"
"I said I have no idea," Rumsfeld interrupted.
"Are you arrogant and autocratic?" McIntyre demanded.
"You know me," the possum parried.
Rumsfeld could maintain this out-of-character calm ("There are no indispensable men," he said when asked about a possible resignation) in part because he was standing at the lectern with Peter Pace, who is usually chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but was moonlighting yesterday as Rumsfeld's PR guy.