May 3rd, 2006

Rainville on Rummy: About Face!

by Philip Baruth

VDB poses the obvious question: at what point can we begin to tell something like the truth about Martha Rainville’s Congressional run?

From the earliest, most exploratory days, Rainville has made hesitation the hallmark of her candidacy.

Would she run at all? Who knew.

Would she campaign while retaining her AG spot? After defending her right to do so, Rainville announced sternly that she would think about it — and finally agreed to step down at a later date.

Would she campaign in the interim, while still in uniform? The Rainville camp said absolutely not, but stage-managed a series of second-hand solicitations that netted a cool $150,000.

Accept campaign contributions from groups founded, controlled, and funded by Tom Delay, and his fundraising partner Roy Blunt?

Rainville took several months to gnaw on that one, and finally announced that she would take the much-discussed Delay/Blunt check for $2000 — then announced two days later that the 2000$ was to be followed by $8,000 more, after which the sky, apparently, was the limit.

And then, of course, came one of our personal favorites.

When asked by PRI’s The World whether she was trying to have it both ways on the Iraq War, Rainville replied, “I think if we’re smart, we’re all at one point supporters, and we’re all critics, because we need to think for ourselves, and we need to cut through to the truth.”

Real quickly, read that line again. We’ll wait.

No, seriously — we’ll wait.

Clearly, the Rainville camp had decided to issue as few categorical statements as possible. For strategic reasons, they would hug the mushiest part of the middle.

But this pattern of hesitation and reversal goes beyond a purely defensive strategy; no campaign team would willingly cue up so many no-starts and false-starts.

No, we’ve argued more than once, the truth has been hiding in plain sight all along: Martha can’t make up her mind.

Generally Indecisive, VDB cannot help but conclude.

Which would be all right if Rainville’s campaign staff had enough sway with her to push her more often toward more timely — and more correct — decisions. But again, let’s face the truth: her campaign staff have spent the last handful of years saluting her.

They’re going to start questioning her now?

What we have in the Rainville candidacy is a somewhat inexperienced and more than ordinarily indecisive candidate, trading on the image of a take-charge leader.

Which brings us to Donald Henry Rumsfeld. rummy

Long ago, months and months and months ago, Peter Welch called for Rumsfeld’s ouster. It wasn’t the topic of the moment then. Michael Gordon’s book Cobra Two had yet to tie specific Rumsfeld decisions to the outbreak of the insurgency. The clutch of retired generals had yet to begin calling for the head of the Secretary of Defense.

But Welch had looked at the chaos in Iraq, and he had this to say when VDB interviewed him in December:

“The other thing I really do think is important is to fire Rumsfeld. Normally that sort of symbolic activity I’m not a big fan of, but in this case I am, because he’s the guy — he and the White House Counsel — that were coming up with the justifications for torture. He should go. It’s the way that we tell our allies we’re serious about changing our direction.”

In response, the Rainville camp took the easy out, the Bush-League way out — this past February, they suggested that Welch’s plain-speaking on Rumsfeld was hurting the broader War on Terror:

“Now is not the time for political grandstanding or finger-pointing when we as Americans are trying to unite and work towards a stronger more secure nation.”

Translation: by assigning actual blame to an actual civilian strategist for actual war-time debacles, Welch was creating a weaker and less secure America.

All of which made Rainville’s 180 degree about-face on Rumsfeld yesterday all the more astounding: suddenly, it’s time to finger-point!

Her new position? Rumsfeld “should be encouraged to retire,” but not by anyone but the President: “Having Congress or having other people call for him to be fired or call for him to resign would not be productive. That’s something really only the president should decide.”

And we should be tender with Rumsfeld’s feelings, Rainville reminds us, because “he has done a number of good things for the military, particularly prior to Iraq.”

A number of good things, particularly prior to Iraq. Can human speech frame criticism any more tentative and less direct?

So, let’s recap.

* Welch’s position on Rumsfeld, then and now: Fire him.

* Rainville’s rapidly evolving position: Although suggesting that Rumsfeld should step down amounted to cramping the war effort only weeks ago, as of yesterday the Secretary of Defense should be “encouraged to leave,” but not by anyone other than the President — who, of course, has affirmed that he is the Decider, the one who decides what’s best, and what’s best is for Donald Rumsfeld to stay right where he is — and particularly not members of Congress, for whom it would be “counter-productive,” particularly in light of all the good Rumsfeld has done for the military, “particularly prior to Iraq.”

To return to where we started: at what point can we begin to tell something like the truth about Martha Rainville’s Congressional run?

The truth is that Rainville can’t bring herself to call out those she only recently stopped saluting; the truth is that Rainville’s campaign staff — who served her at the Guard —suffer from the same salute-or-stay-silent mentality.

And we simply can’t afford it today, not with the range of crucial oversight issues facing the Congress next year: the War, secret prisons, warrantless wiretapping, stop-loss, etc.

Yes, Martha Rainville once wore a uniform. Yes, she used to be called General Rainville. Yes, she has a nice smile. But the truth is that she has run a stop-and-start campaign that has suffered greatly from inexperience at all levels; the truth is that she can’t and won’t speak out in times that call for clarity and force of will.

Rainville remained silent during her tenure at the Guard, because pointing out the obvious would have been disrespectful; she advocates remaining silent now because pointing out the obvious would be “counter-productive.”

The only constants are saluting, and silence.

VDB hears that Laura Bush is slated to campaign for Rainville in the coming weeks. Beautiful. They’ll certainly have a great deal not to say to one another.

2 Responses to ' Rainville on Rummy: About Face! '

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  1. Vermont Daily Briefing » Rainville Called On Carpet — Finally said,

    on May 8th, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    […] Last week, VDB asked what seemed the obvious question: “At what point can we begin to tell something like the truth about Martha Rainville’s Congressional run?” (”Rainville on Rummy: About Face!“) […]

  2. on October 27th, 2006 at 12:46 am

    […] No. But it certainly isn’t worthless background information either. It helps explain a certain tendancy to silence and submission that VDB has been tracing in Rainville — as a commander and as a candidate — for the past year. […]