You've got to like Lieutenant General Russell Honore, the Army three-star running Joint Task Force Katrina operations. Yesterday, as Hurricane Rita churned toward the Gulf, General Honore was among the federal and local officials who faced the media in New Orleans. The city's half-wit mayor, Ray Nagin, tried to answer a question about the evacuation of the New Orleans's remaining residents, in preparation for Rita. As Nagin began to lose control of the situation, Honore stepped in and very bluntly told the press exactly what his troops were preparing to do.
Radio Blogger has the transcript. At one point, General Honore told a reporter "you're stuck on stupid." Priceless.
Despite a little veiled sniping from the Air Force, General Honore has done a remarkable job in the Gulf South, and he's clearly an officer who deserves his fourth star. Surprisingly, the jury's still out on whether he'll actually get that promotion. As you can see, General Honore is tough, direct and brutally honest, with absolutely no tolerance for fools. Those are characteristics the military desires in combatant or operational commanders; in many respects, General Honore is a throwback to George Patton and William T. Sherman, who shared similar personality traits.
But Patton and Sherman earned their rank in wartime, when there's less concern about political sensitivities and an officer's communications style. In today's military, four-star flag officers are usually cut from the same cloth as JCS Chairman General Richard Myers. Smart, polished, a little bland, and politically correct. I could never envision General Myers telling a reporter that he or she is "stuck on stupid."
But perhaps it's time for a change at the top. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld was so disappointed in the quality of Army leadership that he brought the current chief of staff out of retirement. Honore may not fit the template for a contemporary four-star general, but he's a competent, aggressive leader--something our military forces desperately need. President Bush and Rumsfeld might find better candidates for a fourth star among the Army ranks, but they could certainly do a lot worse than General Honore. A military bureaucracy--like any organization--needs an occasional mucking out, and General Honore doesn't seem hesitant to use a shovel.