Well, it depends on what the meaning of the word “caring” is.

That’s the actual AP headline. Please turn off your bullsh*t detectors, gentle House Blend readers, because your finely-tuned meters may explode as you read this article.

Accused of being insensitive to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and their families, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld received a fresh endorsement Monday from President Bush, who called him “a caring fellow.”

“I have heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm’s way,” Bush said at a White House news conference.

Still, a poll suggests slippage in public support for Rumsfeld.

Just over half in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, 52 percent, said Rumsfeld should resign, and 36 percent said he should not. Rumsfeld’s job approval has been dropping, with 41 percent now approving and 50 percent disapproving. People were evenly split on Rumsfeld’s performance in May, but most approved of his handling of the job about a year ago.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., blasted Rummy on the chat shows.

Congressional criticism of Rumsfeld has increased in recent weeks, with lawmakers of both parties accusing him of appearing indifferent to soldiers’ pleas for more armored vehicles. Some have complained about his use of a mechanical device to sign condolence letters to military families whose loved ones have died in battle, rather than signing them himself.

“My goodness, that’s the least that we could expect of the secretary of defense, is having some personal attention paid by him,” Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. said Sunday. Rumsfeld said last week he will personally sign letters in the future.

Bush, who personally signs condolence letters, was asked why he was willing to overlook Rumsfeld’s failure to do the same.

“I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart,” Bush said. “I know how much he cares for the troops,” adding that Rumsfeld and his wife visit hospitalized soldiers “all the time to provide comfort and solace.”

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding