Deriding President Barack Obama as the weakest president "in my adult lifetime," former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called on the White House on Tuesday to fish or cut bait in Syria.
Rumsfeld said there could be no middle ground in Syria: "You either ought to change the regime, or you ought to do nothing," he said during a question-and-answer session after a lecture at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In his customarily colorful way, Rumsfeld, 81, picked away at Obama for declaring last week that any U.S. response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people wouldn't target President Bashar Assad.
"Why would you go in and fire a shot across the bow?" asked Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's defense secretary during the 1970s and again as head of President George W. Bush's Pentagon during the planning for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
"All it does is make a splash, and ... what you've probably achieved is the embarrassment of the United States for being feckless and ineffective," he said.
Rumsfeld also accused Obama of cutting Secretary of State John Kerry off at the knees after Kerry made a "compelling and persuasive" case for strong military action in Syria last week — only for Obama to later say any U.S. response in Syria would be a "limited, narrow act."
"The president is not, in my view, providing the kind of leadership that I think almost any president in my adult lifetime would be providing," he said.
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"You have to have a vision, Rumsfeld said. "You have to know what you're going to do, and you have to provide the kind of leadership the commander in chief would provide."
Despite all of his statements, when asked what guidance he would give on the Syrian situation, however, Rumsfeld did admit, "I'm glad I don't have to give advice to be honest with you."
First published September 3 2013, 4:03 PM