Blogging Rumsfeld: Now I’m at

Blogging Rumsfeld
: Now I’m at a lunch with Donald Rumsfeld (and 700 others). We can only hope that he’s as tough on journalists’ bosses as he is on journalists.

: He starts with comments on “the interaction with your business and government… You do something that is rare in Washington: You actually produce something.”

It’s really just a shaggy dog joke to start things off affab ly.

He says news organizations are criticized by many. “But interestingly, my sense is that you’re not regularly criticized by each other.”

He reminds us he was a cosponsor of the Freedom of Information Act.

He says he hopes his DOD has offered as much or more access than any before. He inaugurated the embed program. He has held hundreds of press briefings. “It’s unbelievable. It’s exhausting. It’s risky.”

: “Today in the global war on terror there is an often nontrivial difference between what is reported and what is happening on the ground.”

He points to al Jazeera and Arab media.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of papers are publishing, he says, and the “inner gyroscope” of the people will learn to find the truth.

Iñthe U.S., he says, print media has the space to explain more about what is happening in Iraq than where the bomb went off.

And we can report on the “vast majority” of people who are not fighting. “They make a difference but they do not make headlines….

“In Iraq and Afghanistan today there are millions of people building progress….

“Our people and the people of the world need to hear their stories.”

And that’s it for his prepared remarks: safe. Now questions…

: Someone from USA Today asks about a reduction in the firings of gay troops and whether there’s a change in the don’t ask policy. Rumsfeld says he isn’t.

: From Boston University a prof asks whether the closure of a paper in Iraq has led to this insurrection.

“I love the beginning of that question: Some people think. There is nothing that some people don’t think. The idea that the conflict… that is taking place in Iraq now as the result of the closing of that paper is a. a stretch and b. undoubtedly not provable.”

He says the paper was inciting violence.

: Another asks about how satisfied he is with the changes he is making in the army. “The army is making signficant progress… In terms of being satisified, I’m almost genetically impatient.” He says the war on terror shows the need for urgent change.

: A Florida publisher says we hear success with democracy at a local level but where is the leadership that will bring this to a national level. Rumsfeld says he’s right, that local councils are more effective. He sees hope in Afghanistan as an example.

: Narda Zarchino from the SF Chronicle asks whether there are selective Service people getting ready to reinstitute the draft and if not, how will we replenish troops. “My answer is no… There were a lot of difficulties with the draft, as you may recall… A relatively small number of the population in that age group was ever drafted. A large number were exempted…” He says the task of training people who got out asap was not efficient.

So how do we sustain? He says he has 2.3 million soldiers available and all we’re trying to do is maintain a much smaller force in Iraq. So rather than increasing the pool, he says, you can tap from elsewhere in the pool. He says it can be done “by better utilizing the people we have.” There are 300k plus people in uniform doing tasks that need not be done by military personnel. That, he says, is a problem with civil service; a general can count on a soldier — or a contracter — better than a civil service worker.

: He says the armed forces need to do a better job of creating people who are specialists in various parts of the world.