Senate vs. Rumsfeld

Posted: Apr 12, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- While Donald Rumsfeld basked in the vindication of the Pentagon's Iraq war plan, the Republican-controlled Senate rebuked the secretary of Defense -- even at the risk of a presidential veto.

The Senate version of the emergency appropriations bill would prevent post-war funding in Iraq from being administered by the Defense Department, as President Bush has decided. That reflects poor personal relations between Rumsfeld and senators of both parties. The House version specified that the State Department should be given responsibility, and either version could provoke Bush's first veto.

That relationship was not improved this week when the Pentagon declined to send a witness to testify on Iraqi nation building before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Defense Department officials said that, for the time being, they were too busy running a war.


Friends of Secretary of State Colin Powell say he was very unhappy with unidentified "former four-stars" who, as paid military analysts, went on television to criticize the U.S. war plan for Iraq in its early stages.

The only four-star officers who meet that description are Army Gens. Barry McCaffrey and Wesley Clark. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Powell boosted McCaffrey to major commands despite considerable opposition in the military establishment.

Powell's criticism was matched by the uniformed military in the Pentagon. Clark's interest in seeking the Democratic presidential nomination has made him suspect. McCaffrey, who after his retirement served as President Clinton's drug czar, is not well liked inside the Army.


As the U.S. caused Saddam Hussein's downfall, the Iraqi dictator's left-wing friends in the Western Hemisphere expressed solidarity with him.

Fidel Castro kept the Cuban embassy in Baghdad open long after other foreign embassies closed as the war began. Castro and a guest visiting Cuba, former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, last month expressed support for Hussein's regime.

Ortega wrote Hussein ("Dear beloved president") from Havana vowing "the firmest solidarity" from the people of Nicaragua. Defeated in Nicaragua's last two presidential elections, Ortega added that "the whole of humanity is threatened by a neo-fascist policy that tries to place itself as a center of Yankee imperialist hegemonic domination."


The chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, Rep. C.W. (Bill) Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, were at each other's throats this week about demands that senators' special projects be funded as part of the emergency appropriations bill.

A furious Stevens stormed out of a Tuesday meeting when Young said that he absolutely would not permit the Senate's add-ons in the final version of the bill. Stevens did not show up for a scheduled Wednesday morning Senate-House conference to negotiate differences between the two versions, forcing postponement of the meeting.

Young would be in trouble in the House if he agreed to senatorial extras after closing the door to similar demands by House members. Conservatives in the House were especially unhappy with Stevens agreeing to projects pressed by such liberal Democratic senators as Patrick Leahy and Tom Harkin for their home states of Vermont and Iowa.


Sen. Arlen Specter, facing conservative opposition from Rep. Patrick Toomey in next year's Pennsylvania Republican primary, took a surprisingly soft approach toward Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in a Senate hearing Wednesday.

Specter, one of the Republican Party's strongest friends of organized labor, was expected to unload on Chao for enforcing financial reporting requirements on unions. Instead, he politely expressed concern and asked the secretary whether labor is being treated the same as business. Chao replied that corporations actually have much stricter standards.

In 2001, when a newly confirmed Chao testified on ergonomics, she was treated roughly by Specter. He made her cut short her prepared testimony and then dismissed her early to hear from other witnesses. In contrast, Specter on Wednesday was cordial to Chao, coming over to chat with her after the hearing.