Asking the Tough Questions

Because I've gotten so many e-mails about it, I think I have to say something about the daily press briefings in which the witty and smart Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, makes a bunch of reporters look like ignorant chimps who couldn't find a banana in a Chiquita warehouse.

Yes, I know the reporters look like they're whiners and carpers and ingrates who don't understand the great job the American military, top to bottom, is presently doing for all of us in the war in and around Afghanistan.

And I guess there's some spillover on me, because quite a few e-mailers have said to me, "Gibson, you ignorant swine, put on a 60-pound backpack, run 20 miles, give me a hundred, and take that hill if you're so darn smart about military matters."

All this invective for asking, "How are we doing at this war we're engaged in?" Some people actually say it: "I don't want to know anything except that we've won, so shut up until you can tell me that."

I remind them, and sometimes not so kindly, this isn't QVC. We don't sell diamond tiaras here. We ask questions and deliver up great slabs of information. We sometimes depend on the people we're asking to not tell us too much, to be the smarter guy in a room full of smarties, and tell us just what we need to know and not so much that the hated enemy learn something helpful.

Questions, that's what we do. Sometimes they're not so nice. Sometimes they're blunt. Sometimes they seem to indicate we know what we're talking about when in fact we're bluffing. Sometimes they accidentally produce more information than any of us in our wildest imaginations thought they would.

For instance, today the Secretary of Defense decided it was time to say, yes, we have ground troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Surprised everybody, including the reporters, who asked.

Now the question, why did he tell us that?

Oh, and one more thing, in the last day or so, we've learned something else about why reporters are asking all those snotty questions about why we aren't bombing more. We learned from the assistants to the smart and witty and very crafty Secretary of Defense that he, too, is asking the generals, why aren't we bombing more?

See, in the reporting game, sometimes we only look dumb.

That's My Word.

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