US Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld waves to well-wishers as he departs the White House after US
President George W. Bush announced Rumsfeld's replacement in Washington
November 8, 2006. Rumsfeld, the controversial face of US war policy, quit
on Wednesday after Democrats rode Americans' anger and frustration over
Iraq to victory in Tuesday's congressional elections. [Reuters]
WASHINGTON - After years
of defending his secretary of defense, US President Bush on Wednesday announced
Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation within hours of the Democrats' triumph in
congressional elections. Bush reached back to his father's administration to tap
a former CIA director to run the Pentagon.
Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans Wednesday with an
upset victory in Virginia, giving the party complete domination of Capitol Hill
for the first time since 1994.
The Senate had teetered at 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans for most of
Wednesday, with Virginia hanging in the balance. Webb's victory ended Republican
hopes of eking out a 50-50 split, with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding
The Iraq war was the central issue of Rumsfeld's nearly six-year tenure, and
unhappiness with the war was a major element of voter dissatisfaction
Tuesday - and the main impetus for his departure. Even some GOP lawmakers
became critical of the war's management, and growing numbers of politicians were
urging Bush to replace Rumsfeld.
Robert M. Gates, 63, who has served in a variety of national security jobs under
six previous presidents, would be nominated to replace Rumsfeld. Gates,
currently the president of Texas A&M University, is a Bush family friend and
a member of an independent group studying the way ahead in Iraq.
The White House hopes that replacing Rumsfeld with Gates can help refresh US
policy on the deeply unpopular war and perhaps establish a stronger rapport with
the new Congress. Rumsfeld had a rocky relationship with many lawmakers.
"Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that sometimes it's necessary to have a
fresh perspective," Bush said in the abrupt announcement during a postelection
In a later appearance at the White House with Rumsfeld and Gates at his side,
Bush praised both men, thanked Rumsfeld for his service and predicted that Gates
would bring fresh ideas.
"The secretary of defense must be a man of vision who can see threats still
over the horizon and prepare our nation to meet them. Bob Gates is the right man
to meet both of these critical challenges," Bush said.
In brief remarks, Rumsfeld described the Iraq conflict as a "little
understood, unfamiliar war" that is "complex for people to comprehend." Upon his
return to the Pentagon after appearing with Bush and Gates, Rumsfeld said it was
a good time for him to leave.
"It will be a different Congress, a different environment, moving toward a
presidential election and a lot of partisanship, and it struck me that this
would be a good thing for everybody," Rumsfeld told reporters.
But underscoring that he would not bow to those pushing for a quick US
withdrawal, he also said, "I'd like our troops to come home, too, but I want
them to come home with victory."
There was little outward reaction among officials at the Pentagon, beyond
surprise at the abrupt announcement.
Asked whether Rumsfeld's departure signaled a new direction in a war that has
claimed the lives of more than 2,800 US troops and cost more than $300 billion,
Bush said, "Well, there's certainly going to be new leadership at the Pentagon."