Powerline: ‘So Inane As to Defy Categorization’

Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff has declared an op-ed that Lawrence Korb and I wrote on Donald Rumsfeld to be “so inane as to defy categorization” because of our radical notion that a Secretary of Defense should be willing to hold himself accountable when he fails to do his job. This sometimes — but not always — means resigning. While the “resignation threshold” can be debated, anyone who called for Secretary of Defense William Perry to resign over the Khobar Towers blast in 1996 (such as then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich), for instance, should clearly be in favor of Rumsfeld’s doing the same.

Disagreeing with us (and Newt) about where the resignation threshold lies is reasonable; but what is so inane as to defy categorization is that Powerline doesn’t believe that Rumsfeld should hold himself accountable at all for what happened at Abu Ghraib. Mirengoff writes:

Public officials must be judged by the totality of their work not by one event, particularly an event like Abu Ghraib that cannot reasonably be attributed to anything the official did or didn’t do.

Even Rumsfeld himself acknowledges this isn’t true. As the Defense Secretary testifed in May 2004 before the House Armed Services Committee:


There has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility.

Peter Ogden