The Wall Street Journal runs an excellent editorial today on the decision by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates not to renominate Marine Corps General Peter Pace to a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Gates explained the decision as an effort to avoid a "quite contentious" debate in Congress. And the Journal nails him for it:
Mr. Gates seems to think he can succeed as the anti-Rumsfeld by appeasing the likes of Mr. Levin, but his kowtow only makes Mr. Bush look weaker as a Commander in Chief who can't even select his own war generals. Mr. Levin was quick to brag about his latest conquest, confirming for reporters that he had told Mr. Gates that General Pace's nomination would have resulted in a fight. The Democrat will now return Mr. Gates's favor by holding Senate hearings on the Administration's detainee and interrogation policy. Mr. Levin is seeking thousands of documents to further embarrass Mr. Bush, and we're told Mr. Gates is urging the White House counsel's office to accommodate the Democrat....
But the problem seems to go deeper than just Gates. From the top down, the administration seems incapable of defending itself, and whatever one thinks of Pace, the administration's capitulation to Levin is pathetic--and signals a more troubling unwillingness to defend the war.
The Journal goes on:
General Pace's fate is one more example of Mr. Bush's recent habit of abandoning those most closely identified with his Iraq policy. Paul Wolfowitz received only tepid support from Treasury while he was besieged at the World Bank, while I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby may soon go to jail because the President has refused to pardon him. With Mr. Libby, what is Mr. Bush afraid of--jeopardizing his 33% approval rating? A pardon would be a two-day story. His opponents can't hate Mr. Bush more than they already do, and his supporters would cheer to see the President standing by the man who stood by him when others in his Administration cut and ran.
The Levin Democrats aren't seeking some new "bipartisan" strategy that will avoid defeat in Iraq. They want to blame Mr. Bush for defeat so they can destroy his Presidency and elect a Democrat in 2008. Mr. Bush can't change that through appeasement in Washington but only by improving the facts on the ground in Baghdad. We thought he hired Mr. Gates to make that happen, not to act as a Beltway middleman for Carl Levin's desires.
We couldn't agree more. And one other point that we hear was raised against Pace's renomination: he wrote a letter to the presiding judge on Libby's behalf....