Lauer Longs for Head of Rumsfeld - But Critical of Calculating Clinton

August 4th, 2006 9:07 AM

Was Matt Lauer showing balance in criticizing Hillary Clinton along with Donald Rumsfeld this morning - or was his skepticism about Hillary simply voicing the view of the Murtha/Lamont wing of the Dem party?

The focus was yesterday's Senate-hearing mano a mano between Hillary and Rumsfeld and her subsequent call for the president to accept the Defense Secretary's resignation.

Interviewing all-purpose commentator Howard Fineman, Lauer seemed insistent that it was time for Rumsfeld to go.

Lauer: "[Clinton] said the president should accept Rumsfeld's resignation. He lost credibility with Congress and the people. It's time for him to step down. This is not the first person to call for his resignation, but at some point, do you think it's a possibility especially in the near term?"

Fineman held his fire: "Well, the Democrats will try to make it that."

That wasn't good enough for Matt: "If all parties agree that the war with Iraq is going badly and you have Tom Friedman from the New York Times saying it's obvious we are baby-sitting a civil war. You have [General] John Abizaid saying sectarian violence is as bad as he has ever seen it and we could be heading into a civil war. When will the ax fall at what point is the president backed into a corner and has to get rid of Rumsfeld?"

Fineman: "I don't know when that times or if it comes. George W.Bush is nothing if not loyal."

Lauer: "But, nothing if not loyal, however when the Katrina response was a disaster Mike Brown went. When scandals rocked the white house, Andy Card went. We got John Snow going. It does happen."

Keep hope alive, Matt!

Fineman finally lobbed Lauer a crumb: "It does happen. It will take Rumsfeld's decision or the appearance of it being Rumsfeld's decision for it to happen. It's clear where the dynamics of the politics are headed, right at Rumsfeld right now. I don't know when it could happen. It could happen. I doubt that it will happen before the election. But it's only August. There is plenty of time between now and November."

But if Howard was reluctant to second Matt's Rummy-must-go pitch, he required no arm-twisting when it came to characterizing Hillary's attack on Rumsfeld as a cynical maneuver.

Lauer: "Hillary Clinton gets to stand up at the hearings and be firm with Rumsfeld. That gets her the headlines this morning. How much of what Jim Miklaszewski said is true, that she is going a long way and doing grandstanding to repair the damage she did with the anti-war liberals in the past?"

Fineman: "She is trying hard. Hillary is balanced as a political figure. Always trying to find the exact middle of where she wants to go. Where she wants to go is the Democratic nomination. She has been calibrating it all along. . . Hillary is talking to her husband. He is sensing what the politics are."

Rush Limbaugh often asserts that the political skills of The Smartest Woman in the World are overrated. Might Rush not be on to something when two leading MSM lights cast her as transparently calculating?

Mark Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access show 'Right Angle.'  Contact Mark at