Melancholy Babies

So according to Robert Novak, Donald Rumsfeld received a standing ovation at the American Spectator dinner last week - not because of his performance as Defense Secretary but because the audience wanted to make Rummy feel better because they knew that President Bush had hurt his feelings.

"The day after the election," Novak writes of Rumsfeld, "he had seemed devastated - the familiar confident grin gone and his voice breaking. According to administration officials, only three or four people knew he would be fired - and Rumsfeld was not one of them. His fellow presidential appointees, including some who did not applaud Rumsfeld's performance in office, were taken aback by his treatment."

Good gracious me. Donald Rumsfeld, who to the best of my knowledge has not lost a wink of sleep since he helped lead us into this sorry war, spent a whole day on the verge of tears because of the way he was fired? Because no one had the courtesy to tell him in advance? Because he believed it when Bush told the press that Rumsfeld would serve until the end of his Presidency?

I love this.

People actually think that there's a good way to be fired.

They get fired, and no matter what they were doing before being fired - losing an unwinnable war, running things into the ground, failing to meet the metrics, or merely holding onto a job that was destined for downsizing - they complain afterwards about the way they were fired instead of about what really bothers them, which is that they were fired at all. After years of wielding power, personally firing people right and left, and, in Rumsfeld's case, actually authorizing the illegal torture of prisoners, they try to worm their way to a scenario meant to entitle them to a wave of sympathy that will obliterate whatever reasons they were fired for in the first place.

My favorite of these Firing Victim scenarios is the one called, "They fired me on my birthday." You can't imagine how many people walk around complaining that they were fired on their birthdays. "They fired me while I was in the hospital." "They fired me a week after my mother's funeral." "They fired me right before Christmas." Almost any firing can be made into a Firing Victim scenario, especially if you throw in national holidays. I recently bumped into a Very Powerful Woman who complained bitterly that she had just been fired while her partner was in labor. I mean, I'm sorry the woman was fired, but how was anyone to know that her partner was in labor? Was this common knowledge? Had the labor been going on for days? And how long would the person who fired this woman have had to wait? Until the epidural wore off? Until the baby was home from the hospital?

Here's my point: There's no good way to be fired and there's no good day to be fired.

But here are all these Republicans at the American Spectator dinner, making the mistake of believing that at the very least ("at the very least" being a key phrase in such episodes) Rumsfeld was entitled to be treated better because of his loyalty to the president.

By the way, Novak writes that Rumsfeld isn't the only member of the Bush Administration who has Lost His Happy: Vice President Cheney is "profoundly disturbed" at the way Rumsfeld was treated and recently "appeared melancholy." We will leave aside the question of how anyone can evaluate the levels of Dick Cheney's melancholy and instead wonder whether Cheney is feeling bad because he sees the handwriting on wall. Who knows? Maybe the rumor is true, and he's next.