Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, told reporters recently how much nicer Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his team are to Democrats, compared with treatment from his predecessor, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The California Democrat recalled a breakfast meeting with Mr. Rumsfeld, when Democrats were still in the minority. “I can remember sitting right across from him and demanding in 2003 that we lift end-strength, and had the bill to do it for both the Army and the Marines, and having him tell me in his deprecating tone how ‘it wasn’t really about people, honey,’ which wasn’t what he said but that was the tone. The only thing missing was the little pat on the head.”
Mrs. Tauscher said she was “stunned” at offer ing to increase the number of troops and “have him say, ‘No, it’s not about that, honey.’ I mean it was just amazing.”
The congresswoman said her relationship with Mr. Gates is better. She also meets ever y week with Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy and a foreign service officer.
Mrs. Tauscher also had harsh words for Gen. Peter Pace, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who she suggested would not tell civilian leaders about problems in the militar y, such as readiness shortfalls, problems with dealing with other military contingencies and for “allowing criminals into the military.”
“This administration is responsible for all that,” she said.
Mrs. Tauscher had praise for the new chair man, Adm. Michael Mullen, and new vice chair man, Gen. James Cartwright.
Asked whether Adm. Mullen would be chairman if Mr. Rumsfeld were still secretary, Mrs. Tauscher said: “Probably not” since such officers “could not sustain a conversation with Secretary Rumsfeld and get their views actually heard in a respectful way and have any impact at all.”