Trouble In Paradise

From Holden:

Sounds like the Odd Couple are at odds.

A full 10 seconds of silence passed after a reporter asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld what the intense secrecy and security surrounding their visit to Iraq signified about the stability of the country three years after the U.S.-led invasion. Rice turned to Rumsfeld to provide the answer. Rumsfeld glared at the reporter.

“I guess I don’t think it says anything about it,” he snapped. He went on to say that President Bush had directed him and Rice to go to Iraq to “meet with the new leadership, and it happens that they are located here,” a reference to the heavily fortified Green Zone where U.S. officials — and many Iraqi leaders — live and work.


Even though her arrival here followed an exhausting sprint through Greece and Turkey, Rice appeared energized by the task at hand. Rumsfeld arrived directly from Washington — after a recent Asian tour — but he seemed disengaged and bored, both to reporters traveling with him and to some U.S. officials. Some said he seemed irritated by the whole exercise. He did not speak a word to reporters with him on the flight to Baghdad.

During a joint meeting with reporters traveling with the secretaries, Rumsfeld frequently doodled with a black felt-tip pen or stared absent-mindedly at the ceiling when Rice spoke. Rice would occasionally cast a nervous glance at Rumsfeld as he prepared to respond to a question. His answers were terse; hers were expansive.


The two secretaries recently had a widely publicized dispute over a comment by Rice that the administration had probably made “thousands” of “tactical errors” in Iraq. Aides later said she had meant it figuratively, but it generated headlines around the world. In a radio interview, Rumsfeld dismissed it as a comment made by someone who didn’t understand warfare.

Asked about the flap here in Baghdad, Rumsfeld replied, “I wasn’t aware of what she meant.” (The transcript shows that the radio interviewer described her remarks carefully and placed them in context.) Rumsfeld made no effort to smooth over the issue but pointed to Rice and said, “She’s right here, and you can ask her.” Rice noted that her comment about tactical errors had been made “not in the military sense.”

Rice courted the news media, racing through five television interviews in 17 minutes. Rumsfeld gave no separate interviews. At one point, he arrived early for a meeting and saw an array of television cameras inside the room. He shook his head at the reporters and turned on his heel.

Before the two Cabinet members left Baghdad on Thursday, Rice dismissed any suggestions of tension. “Secretary Rumsfeld and I have an excellent relationship,” she told Fox News. “We’re working very hard together. We’re actually having a great time here in Iraq.”