Time to reboot the old Loop Rummy Watch. The fortunes of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld have waxed -- The fall of Baghdad, April 2003 -- and waned -- Abu Ghraib, April 2004 -- during his tenure.
There were calls for his firing after Abu Ghraib -- and he twice offered his resignation to President Bush in the wake of that outrage. It's been relatively smoother sailing since then.
But the tragic losses in Iraq in recent days are likely to spark intense criticism -- not just from the "cut and run" crowd, or the more gradualist "cut and walk" folks, but even from the staunchest backers of the administration's Iraq policy.
So Wednesday night, on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," none other than the host himself was jumping on Rumsfeld for his handling of the war.
One O'Reilly guest, retired Army Col. David Hunt, author of a book, "They Just Don't Get It," said: "Baghdad is still a disaster. . . . You still can't drive to the airport" and there is "rampant corruption" by "Iraqi government officials, the Iraqi contractors and some American contractors [who] are stealing money in the billions of dollars" that is "supposed to be helping the Iraqis."
Another guest, Fox News military analyst and retired Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, said, "we're having a tough time," and that people in the Pentagon and in Iraq are "expressing a lot of dismay and disappointment at the way things are going."
Then Bill O'Reilly weighed in: "But I don't have any confidence in Donald Rumsfeld at this point. Do you, Colonel Cowan? I don't think he's leveling with the American people. I think that he doesn't have enough people over there to clean up the corruption, or fight the insurgency, or provide security for the oil pipeline, which they need [for] the money. I don't have any confidence in the secretary of defense at this point."
The drumbeat's getting louder.
Last Stand for Feith and Drum Corps
Speaking of departures from the Pentagon, Undersecretary for Policy Douglas J. Feith is taking off -- last day is Monday -- to write a book and do some "freelancing." There was some churlish chatter that Feith could not find a suitable job, but we're told that this book project has been in the works for months.
There is a strong expectation at the Pentagon that Bush will give a recess appointment to Eric Edelman, a former ambassador to Turkey and onetime aide to Vice President Cheney. His nomination to replace Feith stalled in the Senate.
Word is that Edelman, informally in line for this job since January, has been "taking meetings," as they say, in preparation and sizing up potential aides.
If Bush makes that move now, Edelman, under the Constitution, would be allowed to serve until the end of the next session of this Congress.
There is always uncertainty as to when that is. Typically, a session ends whenever Congress decides to adjourn. In an election year, with lawmakers wanting to leave to campaign, that could be early October (it adjourned on Oct. 4, 1996) but sometimes as late as Jan. 3, when a Congress must officially end. In recent years, it has been around Thanksgiving or just before Christmas.
If, on the other hand, Bush waits until January to appoint Edelman, that appointment would run through 2006 -- the end of the second session of the 109th Congress, and then to late 2007, the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, a total of about two years.
"There is some legal question about when a session actually ends," assistant Senate historian Betty K. Koed says. Maybe if someone wanted to push the issue, they could probably hang on until the Congress ends, which is Jan. 3. "But precedent has been that the appointment expires with . . . adjournment," Koed said.
Of course, Edelman could get confirmed when Congress comes back.
So Guest Workers Are Called Dubyas?
Immigration has always been an issue that cuts across party lines, splitting liberal and conservative camps.
This week, the formidable Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum, ripped into "our old friend," former House speaker Newt Gingrich, for a recorded telephone pitch in which he talked about "the danger of illegal aliens" entering the country.
"But slyly buried in the middle of Newt's message," she writes, "was an endorsement of a 'guest worker plan' to invite even more aliens to take U.S. jobs."
A new immigration bill, sponsored by conservative Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), is a "bait-and-switch maneuver" that has a guest worker program "wrapped in a few border-security measures."
Lots of good stuff in the bill, Schlafly said, but there's a "visa category called 'W' " that she says would allow Silicon Valley corporations to bring in "computer specialists from India and Pakistan [who] would board planes to take jobs" at minimum wage.
The "W" workers would then figure out how to stay in the country permanently, she argued.
Maybe Newt should call his "old friend" Phyllis?
Fundraisers Dispatched to Faraway Places
If you start seeing a lot of New Zealand lamb on the menu at McCormick & Schmick's, it might be because William McCormick, another mega-donor, has been nominated by Bush to be ambassador to New Zealand. McCormick co-founded the seafood restaurant chain 30 years ago.
Also on the ambassadorial front, Bush "Ranger" James P. Cain, who was North Carolina vice chairman in the 2004 race, is to be sworn in next week as ambassador to Denmark. Cain has been talked about as a GOP candidate for governor in 2008.