In fact, the most cheering aspect of this awful, awful week has been Don Rumsfeld. When the abuse was first revealed, Rumsfeld was shocked and grieved. It was written on his face and in his voice. The usually jaunty and upbeat secretary of defense was stricken (as were we all). But with great dignity and true manliness, he accepted responsibility. "It happened on my watch," he acknowledged. That was the first important thing Rumsfeld did last week. He gave parents around the country something to show their sons: This is how a grown-up behaves.
But the second thing he did was even more crucial. He bounced back. With presidential candidates and newspaper editorials calling for his head, he not only managed not to lose it, he did something else -- he thought of his responsibilities more than of himself. He offered a glimpse of this during the first day of congressional hearings, when Sen. Evan Bayh asked whether his resignation might not be a signal of how seriously we took the events at Abu Ghraib. Without flinching Rumsfeld replied, "It might."
A few days later, Rumsfeld stood at a podium in the Pentagon taking questions from midshipmen and cadets, and ordinary soldiers. But he began with a sturdy demonstration of strength and rectitude. Speaking of the response of the Pentagon's officers to seeing those pictures, he said: "They were stunned; absolutely stunned that any Americans wearing the uniform could do what they did. We are heartsick at what they did, for the people they did it to. We are heartsick for the really well-earned reputation as a force for good in the world that all of us -- military, civilians and those Americans who support us -- will pay. And I know I speak to everyone listening when I say that those acts ought not to be allowed to define us -- either in the eyes of the world or in our own eyes. We know who we are. We know what our standards are. You know what you're taught. And the terrible actions of a few don't change that."
No indeed. Just as Rumsfeld was reminding the nation of our virtues, our enemies were reminding us of why we fight. They kidnapped an innocent American businessman, Nick Berg, and beheaded him -- all captured complete with dying screams -- on videotape.
Rumsfeld does us proud. He is just what we need. He should not resign.