Will Rumsfeld Duck the Hard Questions Again This Weekend?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be getting plenty of face-time this weekend. He will be appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, and Fox News Sunday. The last time Secretary Rumsfeld made such an extended trip on the TV circuit, he ducked almost every difficult question he was posed. The media shouldn’t fall for the bumbling Rumsfeld routine this weekend and should press him for specifics about an Iraq policy that sorely needs a change of course.

Here are some of Rumsfeld’s best “I don’t know” moments from last February:

SCHIEFFER: You say there are thousands. How many of them [insurgents] are there?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

SCHIEFFER: Well, if we don’t know, if we can’t even estimate how many of them there are, how will we ever defeat them?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know that that’s necessary.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

SCHIEFFER: Well, has it tipped yet?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

FRIEDMAN: Does Iran have nuclear weapons?
RUMSFELD: Don’t know.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

SCHIEFFER: But do you think they have the capability to do it in a couple of years?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

FRIEDMAN: Mr. Secretary, would you like to see long-term U.S. bases in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I have no idea.
[CBS, Face the Nation, 2/6/05]

STEPHANOPOULOS: How long will it take to get enough of those various security forces to secure the country internally? Our military analyst Tony Cordesman says it’s going to take at least through 2006.
RUMSFELD: Well, it’s interesting to me that some people think they know that, because it’s not knowable.
[ABC, This Week, 2/6/05]

STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you believe that a limited strike could cause a regime to topple?
RUMSFELD: Who knows? Who knows?
[ABC, This Week, 2/6/05]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are there US military operations going on in Iran right now?
RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you would know, wouldn’t you?
RUMSFELD: Probably. But not to my knowledge.
[ABC, This Week, 2/6/05]

RUSSERT: Why not give the Iraqis benchmarks that “In six months, we’re going to withdraw 50,000 troops. You better have 50,000 troops ready to replace them”?
RUMSFELD: It is misleading people to think that you know something you don’t know. And we know we don’t know.
[NBC, Meet the Press, 2/6/05]

RUSSERT: The Iraqi intelligence services director said that the insurgency is larger than the U.S. Army; it is more than 200,000 people. Is he right?
RUMSFELD: Who said that?
RUSSERT: The–Mohammad Abdul Sussami, the Iraqi Intelligence Service director, on January 3, 2005. He’s a general.
RUMSFELD: Yeah, I’ve never seen that number, and I don’t know where it came from.
[NBC, Meet the Press, 2/6/05]

BLITZER: But did [the soldier’s question about lack of equipment] accelerate the process?
RUMSFELD: I think it’s important for a secretary of defense to go out there and meet with the troops and let them ask anything they want. I don’t know.
[CNN, Late Edition, 2/6/05]

And the fitting ending…

KING: How do you explain, by the way, being successful all your life in business and public life and at the same time always being direct?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know. But I do tend to be direct, and I think I owe that to people.
[CNN, Larry King, 2/3/05]

For more on Rumsfeld’s evasive maneuvers, read Dana Milbank’s 2/17/05 column in the Washington Post.