WASHINGTON - President Bush pledged Wednesday to work with Democrats after
the "thumping" that Republicans took on Election Day. He named a new defense
secretary to oversee the war in Iraq, a change the president said was going to
happen regardless of which party won the election.
Bush said former CIA Director Robert Gates, if confirmed by the Senate, would
replace Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
Gates is a "patriot" and "strategic
thinker" with a transformational spirit, Bush said from the Oval Office.
President Bush gestures during his news conference in the
East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006.
"He's a man of integrity, candor and sound judgment," the president said. "He
knows that the challenge of protecting our country is larger than any political
party. He has a record of working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to
strengthen our national security. He has my confidence and my trust."
Bush praised Rumsfeld, in the Cabinet from the start of the Bush presidency,
saying, "America is safer and the world is more secure because of the leadership
and the service of Don Rumsfeld."
Bush said he had been talking with Rumsfeld about whether it was time for a
fresh perspective at the department, and the two agreed Tuesday it was
appropriate for Rumsfeld to resign.
"It's been quite a time," Rumsfeld said. Then, quoting Winston Churchill, he
said: "I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a
The announcement came the day after Democrats captured control of the House
after 12 years of GOP rule and erased the Republican majority in the Senate. One
Senate race remained to be decided - in Virginia, where Democrat James Webb
held a slight lead of Republican Sen. George Allen. If Democrats win that seat,
they would hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate; an Allen victory would split the
Senate 50-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney, as president of the Senate, in
position with a tie-breaking vote.
Bush called Democratic leaders to congratulate them and he expressed both
disappointment and surprise over the vote.
"I thought we were going to do fine yesterday, shows what I know," Bush said
at a news conference hours before introducing Gates as his nominee. "But I
thought we were going to be fine in the election. My point to you is that, win
or lose, Bob Gates was going to become the nominee."
Bush seemed stoic about the election, proclaiming: "This isn't my first