By: Susanne M. Schafer, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended the press corps that peppers him with questions at Pentagon briefings, saying the rough-and-tumble is “really, truly helpful” to the discussion of national security issues during wartime.
On C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Tuesday, Rumsfeld was asked how he deals with “a constant barrage of hostile questions” at news conferences.
“The truth is that the tougher the question, the more likely it’s a question that people in the listening audience want to hear the answer to,” the Pentagon chief replied. “And to the extent that’s the case, it’s helpful — really, truly helpful — to have difficult questions asked, so that you have an opportunity to discuss them and explain and add some dimension and texture to the subject.”
A recent column in The Wall Street Journal dubbed Rumsfeld’s press briefings “the best new show on television.”
During the C-SPAN call-in show Tuesday, the defense secretary listened intently to each question and sprinkled his answers with chuckles and comments like “Goodness gracious!”
One caller asked him to compare his service in the first Bush administration to his current job. Rumsfeld gently reminded the caller he had actually served in the Cabinet under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Rumsfeld said his wife reminds him of the necessity for give-and-take with the news media.
“When I leave the house in the morning my wife, Joyce, says, ‘Now, Don, they have their job and you have yours.’ And it’s true, they do have their job, and their job is to ask questions and to contribute to the national debate and dialogue on these very important issues.”
Rumsfeld called the briefing ritual “an amazing process” that is “particularly difficult, of course, during a conflict.”
Asked whether his televised briefings are popular because of his “charisma” or the public’s new interest in national security, Rumsfeld laughed heartily. “No, it’s the fact that the subject matter is so important to our country,” he said.