Mr. George F. Will has written a column on Secretary Rumsfeld that is thoughtful, elegantly constructed, historically allusive -- and wrong. While not quite being willing to spit it out, he leads his readers -- and presumably his prime targeted reader, Mr. Rumsfeld himself -- to the precipice, with the pregnant implication that Mr. Rumsfeld should jump. Noble resignation is the theme of Mr. Will's column. At this moment, that is as bad advice as an honorable person can give a public official. Mr. Rumsfeld should keep his bottom firmly in his secretarial chair, not for his own sake but for the sake of his president and the national interest.
Mr. Will's abstract argument, in a nutshell, is that: 1) Americans should not flinch from the facts; 2) empire is about domination, and the act of dominating tends to corrupt; 3) there should be a penalty for failure in office, or such failures will proliferate; 4) our response to the prison scandal should be proportional to the transgression; 5) America needs an ethic of resignation from public office; and 6) no man is indispensable.
Numbers 1, 2 and 4, above, are right; No. 3 is sometimes the case, No. 6 is demonstrably wrong; and this is a damn fool time to propose No. 5.
For those of us who dabble in ideas, we are always in danger of falling into intellectual narcissism -- that is, we fall so in love with the gorgeousness of our idea that we fail to measure it against the brass tacks of reality. Mr. Will, ever the Tory intellectual, has fallen in love with the British and Continental tradition of honorable resignation from high office. I agree with him -- it is a useful and highly ethical tradition. But it is not an American tradition. And in his desire to see Donald Rumsfeld begin that tradition, he misjudges the political and policy consequences.
Mr. Will's column is an extended attempt to compliment Mr. Rumsfeld so profusely that he will resign for the sheer nobility of it all. First, Will asks the central question: Would Rumsfeld's resignation help or hinder our war on terror? While he doesn't answer the question, he purrs that: "This is not a simple call. But being experienced, (Rumsfeld) will know how to make the call. Being honorable, he will do so."
Next, Mr. Will tries to seduce him with the Macbeth option, which would give Mr. Rumsfeld the discrete pleasure of gaining elite approval: "Would discerning people say that nothing in (Rumsfeld's) public life became him like the leaving of it?"
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.