NPR Pentagon Correspondent John Hendren has been traveling with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Today, the secretary is in Brussels for a meeting of NATO ministers.
Before arriving in Belgium, Rumsfeld was in Jakarta to talk about terrorism. On the flight from Indonesia to Belgium, Hendren was the radio pool reporter. It's the pool reporter's job to write a report about any news briefings that take place and provide that report to journalists who couldn't make the trip, but still want to cover Rumsfeld's activities. As it happens, there was a press briefing on the plane.
The details of the briefing are kinda boring. But a preamble to his official dispatch was quite droll. With John's kind permission, herewith, a portion of that preamble:
"En route from Jakarta to Brussels on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's E-4B plane (dubbed "The Doomsday Machine" by your correspondent because it was designed as a mobile command center during a nuclear war… and because its aging and declasse 1960s decor reminds your correspondent of something out of Dr. Strangelove. As an aside to an aside, that classic satire was viewed by the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, at the suggestion of brigade commander Col. Dave Perkins, in a tent in Kuwait a few weeks before that unit rolled its tanks into Baghdad in the now-legendary "Thunder Run," not coincidentally the title of a recent book by Los Angeles Times Correspondent David Zucchino).
Pentagon Press Secretary Eric Ruff spoke on the record. He was accompanied by a "senior defense official," who spoke on condition of anonymity for reasons unexplained, but exceedingly common in the Defense Department. Rumsfeld did not participate (or we might have had to say "really senior defense official").
Journalists sought a briefing on the plane so that wire reporters could file stories immediately upon arriving in Brussels and so others could catch a Violent Femmes show Wednesday night (review available on request as part of your continuing pool coverage, along with the outcome of our efforts to poll the band's views on the efficacy of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan).
I'll have to ask about that review when John gets back to Washington.