In the days of yore, the legend holds, politics "stopped at the water's edge". America's Cold Warriors put their domestic political fights aside and presented a united front to the world beyond the seas. (I'm sure Peter Robinson has stories about this.)
On Hugh Hewitt's radio show Tuesday, private citizen Donald Rumsfeld responded to a pair of questions about the United States' relationship with Israel as it pertains to a military strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program (emphasis added).
Hewitt: Can a responsible American government do anything other than support an Israeli government to the max in [potential military action against Iran]?
Rumsfeld: [...] If you look at the current administration's relationship with Israel, I think anyone looking at it from the outside ... has to say they have been given pretty short shrift. And that it looks as though, if I were an Israeli leader, I think I'd have trouble coordinating with the United States government about something like that for fear it would be leaked.
Hewitt: Do you think [the Israelis] are justified in that alarm based upon what you know and the treatment that the President has afforded Benjamin Netanyahu--that they would be justified in fearing a leak?
Rumsfeld: Oh my goodness, yes! Absolutely. The last thing you want to do is put your air force in any jeopardy by having telegraphed that that's something you're doing. And if you trying to coordinate with this administration I would think there is at least a reasonable chance that it would leak out. I would anticipate that a responsible Israeli government, given the relationship, would very likely have to make a decision on their own and proceed.
I don't think he said anything false, but it strikes me as bold for a statesman like Rumsfeld to make public statements undermining US Middle East policy by implying, in fact recommending, distrust with our ally. He flatly said Israel should expect to be betrayed by the United States government.
Rumsfeld is an admirable man. He's a significant American political figure of the past half century, and he has a depth and breadth of experience that is nearly unequaled. He has an understanding of history and a vision of the future. Donald Rumsfeld usually means what he says.
So why did he choose to answer this way? Has the old "water's edge" convention expired? One could certainly make that argument based on the shameful public behavior of Democrats during the Bush administration.
Or now that Rumsfeld is a private citizen, does the old custom no longer apply to him?
What are the consequences of a man of Rumsfeld's stature making statements like this?
(Link to audio, courtesy of Breitbart.com)