The issue is not whether people should be nice to Donald Rumsfeld or even whether history will vindicate him or condemn him. The real issue is whether we can have responsible adult discussions of issues at a time when the fate of this nation hangs in the balance in its most dangerous hour, with reckless and hate-filled leaders in Iran and North Korea about to become nuclear threats.
This country needs to be able to draw on its best people from every walk of life and from every part of the political spectrum. But the nation is not going to get them if going to Washington means seeing the honorable reputation of a lifetime dragged through the mud just because someone disagrees with you on a political issue.
Our confirmation hearings for federal judges have become a circus and a disgrace. Nominees who have fought for civil rights, even in the days when that was a risky thing to do in the South, have been pictured as "racists" just as a political ploy to keep them from being confirmed.
Washington has become a political meat grinder where character assassination is standard procedure. Clever and glib people say "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." But the far larger question is whether the country can afford to repel people who are desperately needed but who may have too much self-respect to let political pygmies smear their character.
We need to attract allies abroad as well as Americans at home. Yet too many in the media are as ready to trash our allies as they are to trash Americans whose politics they don't like. It is a great game to some. But it is a dangerous game to play when the country is facing unprecedented threats.