Lauer to Rumsfeld Supporter: "Did He Ask You to Be Here on His Behalf?"

Darn it, when the MSM have a Republican in their sights, shouldn't he have the good grace to sit there and take it until he's hounded from office? That would appear to be NBC's operative principle, judging by Today's coverage of the Rumsfeld flap. Much of the emphasis this morning was not so much on the substance of the controversy but on the fact that the Pentagon is fighting back against the calls for Rumsfeld's ouster.

Topping it all was the very first question that Matt Lauer posed to his guest, retired Marine Lt. General Mike DeLong, a Rumsfeld defender:

"Have you been asked by Secretary Rumsfeld to be here on his behalf?"

The answer, by the way, was 'no.' When Dem flacks, from James Carville to Paul Begala to countless others make their TV rounds, do MSM hosts inquire whether the DNC or a given Dem politician had asked them to appear? Yet here was Lauer leading his interview with a question that seemed designed to undercut DeLong's credibility.

Contrast this with the treatment Katie Couric accorded Rumsfeld critic John Batiste last week, described here. Couric invited the retired general to take a swipe at Pres. Bush; her only compaint was that Batiste hadn't come forward before with his criticism so that public opinion could be shaped "far earlier than you are now."

Lauer's question came after a set-up piece he introduced in this way: "On close-up, firing back. Defense secretary Rumsfeld's backers took to the air waves to defend him."

NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski sustained the drumbeat:

"The Pentagon has now launched a full-blown public relations counter-offensive against the retired generals who called for Rumsfeld resignation. And the Secretary himself plans to use a previously scheduled meeting set for tomorrow with other retired generals and military analysts to prove he still has widespread support among the ranks.

"With Secretary Rumsfeld taking direct fire, the Pentagon is rallying the troops in his defense." A clip was then played of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers stating:

"It's wrong for the military to criticize our bosses. That's not the role of the military of the United States. It's inappropriate."

Continued Miklaszewski: "Last week only hours after President Bush issued a written statement supporting Rumsfeld, the Pentagon sent a memo to retired generals [claiming] in 2005 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had 273 meetings with senior military commanders and 74 this year."

Highlights of DeLong's comments:

"He's tough to work with, he is a micro-manager, but he is very effective."

"From what I've seen, when we ran the war and the two people that worked the war with the Secretary were Tommy Franks and myself, when it came to matters of tactics and strategic thought, he went with us if there was any disagreement."

Lauer wasn't satisfied, suggesting that had Rumsfeld been a CEO, he'd be fired by now.

When it comes to Defense secretaries in liberal-media disfavor, there's no appeasing the MSM. Not resignation, not even death, will mollify the MSM critics, as was recently demonstrated when, on the very day Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger died, MSNBC's 'Countdown' swiped at him, as described here.

An aside: NBC reporter Tom Aspell might have set a new MSM record for the most negative assessment of the situation in Iraq. Reporting from Baghdad this morning, he opined that the delay in creating a new government "is hastening the country's slide into chaos."

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.