Discussing Cong. Jack Murtha’s resolution to withdraw from Iraq on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer (and guest interviewer Elisabeth Busmiller) this morning, Sec. of State Don Rumsfeld slipped the hook on questions a couple of times by claiming that he’d been in flight from Australia yet was suspiciously cognizant of certain facts (my transcript, I apologize for problems getting Busmiller’s ineffectual delivery down, the official PDF transcript has since been posted):
BUSMILLER: Let me go back to Cong. Murtha. When he called for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq last week, Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, said that he was endorsing the policies of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Just a few hours ago in Beijing, President Bush seemed to dial back a bit on that criticism and he praised Mr. Murtha as a fine man, a good man…
RUMSFELD: He is a good man.
BUSMILLER: …and so my question is, did the administration go too far in its attacks on Mr. Murtha and the Democrats for criticizing the war?
RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness, I’ve been in Australia. I have not followed the tit for tat on who said what. Murtha’s a fine man. I know him personally, Jack is, and, and uh, we know that. It’s perfectly proper to have a debate over these things, and have a public debate. We had debates during World War II. We had debates during the Korean War and during the Vietnam War, and we’re going to have debates during this war. The important thing is to recognize there are consequences for what you say. The President of the United States has the responsibility to, to provide the direction and leadership, in my view he’s correct and he’s on the mark.
BUSMILLER: Well would you say that he is — he has, uh — he went about the decision to call for a, the, a withdrawal [in] a careful and thoughtful way as the President did? He seemed to be praising Mr. Murtha suddenly.
RUMSFELD: I haven’t seen any of these reports. I’ve been on an airplane flying back from Australia. I just don’t know…
SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think he deserves an apology?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know why, I haven’t heard…
SCHIEFFER: He was called a coward.
RUMSFELD: Oh, he was not. He was not.
SCHIEFFER: Well, that was certainly the implication.
RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t believe he was called a coward. I’m told that the person apologized who quoted somebody else not even mentioning Murtha, so I think your characterization’s probably possibly not fair.
SCHIEFFER: What about when the White House Press Secretary….
RUMSFELD: He’s not a coward, I’ll tell you that.
SCHIEFFER: OK. What about when the White House Press Secretary says he’s aligning himself with Michael Moore the producer of….
RUMSFELD: Oh, come on, I’m not going to get into get into all of that stuff.
BUSMILLER: I have another question. 60% of Americans now believe that the war was not worth fighting. At what point does lack of support at home affect the war itself?
RUMSFELD: Well, it’s — we have a President who, who knows that the war’s worth fighting — and it is — and, uh, I think that the bulk of the Congress rep, reflected that in the vote. You didn’t see many people Republican or Democrat…
SCHIEFFER: So you got word about that…
RUMSFELD: …just a minute…
SCHIEFFER: …out there in Australia, you didn’t hear about the other part.
RUMSFELD: …you didn’t see many people flocking to Jack Murtha’s position. I didn’t anyway.
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