On Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed with Sen. John McCain’s statement that Donald Rumsfeld was one of the worst defense secretaries in history. “John’s entitled to his opinion. I just think he’s wrong,” said Cheney. The Vice President also revealed that McCain had apologized to for commenting that he thought Cheney had “badly served” Bush on Iraq.

“John said some nasty things about me the other day, and then next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he’ll apologize to Rumsfeld,” Cheney said. However, at a campaign stop in Los Angeles, McCain said that he stood by his remarks about Rumsfeld. On Monday, McCain said, “We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement, that’s the kindest word I can give you, of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war. The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously. I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.”

In contrast, Cheney called his friend Rumsfeld a great defense secretary. “I know a little bit about the job. I’ve watched what he’s done over there for six years. I think he did a superb job in terms of managing the Pentagon under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. He and John McCain had a number of dustups over policy, didn’t have anything to do with Iraq,” Cheney said.

It looks to me like John McCain is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to stay close to President Bush and his supporters, but he also is trying to distance himself from the Iraq war, His mechanism for accomplishing this strategy is to leave the president out of the loop of blame for the war, and lay it all at Rumsfeld’s feet. Rumsfeld deserves his share of the blame for the failures in Iraq, but there is plenty of responsibility to go around for the Pentagon, White House, and Congress too.

This is a calculated move by McCain to not only distance himself from the way the war has been run, but also to take a swipe at Rumsfeld, who he appears to have had issues with in the past. I would bet that McCain will end up backtracking at some point on those remarks about Rumsfeld. He wants the Republican nomination so badly, that he can’t afford to anger the White House. If anything, this makes McCain look soft, and nothing like the strong leader that his campaign will surely project him to be.


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