Rumsfeld Resigning, To Be Replaced By Former CIA Director Gates

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Bush names Gates as Rumsfeld successor
by Johanna Neuman

WASHINGTON — Saying the time is right for new leadership, President Bush today introduced the person he wants to be his new secretary of Defense a day after the GOP suffered a serious electoral setback.

Flanked by the departing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his replacement Robert Gates, Bush took the podium in the Oval Office during the changing of the guard during a politically unpopular war.

During Rumsfeld’s six years in office, the 74-year-old civilian military chief was a lightning rod for criticism of Bush’s policies and became known for his sometimes Delphic comments as he dodged verbal bullets.

Bush mentioned Rumsfeld’s penchant for turning a phrase in praising him:

“Don once famously said, ‘There are known knowns, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns.’ Well Mr. Secretary, here is a known known: Your service has made America stronger and has made America a safer nation.”

Rumsfeld, who had been fighting calls to step down for months, was direct in his response…

     

“Mr. President, thank you for your kind words and the wholly unexpected opportunity you provided me to serve,” he said.

“It has been quite a time. It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that I have benefited greatly from criticism and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.”

Looking on was Robert Gates, Bush’s choice to be the next secretary of Defense. He will face confirmation by the Senate.

News that Rumsfeld was leaving came hours after voters punished Republicans for the Iraq war and gave Democrats at least 28 seats in the House and a good shot at capturing the Senate.

Criticized for failing to send enough troops to Iraq to quell the insurgency and for interrogation tactics at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons that gave the United States a black eye around the world, Rumsfeld, resigned as one of the longest-serving Defense chiefs.

He headed the Pentagon under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977 and for President Bush since 2001. In recent months, as American casualties mounted in Iraq, many retired generals called for Rumsfeld’s ouster, as did an editorial in the Army Times newspaper.

In a post-election news conference, Bush said that under Rumsfeld, “the military experienced a lot of reform and change while fighting war on terrorism.” He called Rumsfeld “a superb leader in a time of change a patriot a trusted advisor and friend.” And he said that Rumsfeld himself often speaks of the advantage of having “fresh eyes” examine U.S. policy in Iraq.

To replace him, Bush announced he was appointing Gates, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George H.W. Bush. Gates is the president of Texas A & M University and a close friend of the Bush family. He first joined the CIA in 1966 and served in the intelligence community for more than a quarter century under six presidents.

Reaction to the news of Rumsfeld’s departure was swift and biting.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called it welcome news that “could represent a significant shift in direction by this Administration. I hope it opens the door to fresh ideas on Iraq.” Fresh from her own electoral victory, Feinstein said, “Last night, the American people made their view clear that there needs to be a change in Iraq policy. It seems that the message was received. I only wish it had been sooner.”

With much of Washington awaiting suggestions from an Iraq War study group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton, Rumsfeld’s departure fueled talk of new options in Iraq.

“If it were up to me he would have been gone a long time ago,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), one of the war’s critics. “But Secretary Rumsfeld’s departure is only a small step in fixing the larger problem that stems from the president’s failed Iraq policy.”

Urging a timetable for redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, Feingold said the drawdown would “help pressure the Iraqis to get their political house in order” and will help the U.S. military refocus on defeating global terrorist networks.
During Rumsfeld’s six years in office, the 74-year-old civilian military chief was a lightning rod for criticism of Bush’s policies and became known for his sometimes Delphic comments as he dodged verbal bullets.

Bush mentioned Rumsfeld’s penchant for turning a phrase in praising him:

“Don once famously said, ‘There are known knowns, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns.’ Well Mr. Secretary, here is a known known: Your service has made America stronger and has made America a safer nation.”

Rumsfeld, who had been fighting calls to step down for months, was direct in his response.

“Mr. President, thank you for your kind words and the wholly unexpected opportunity you provided me to serve,” he said.

“It has been quite a time. It recalls to mind the statement by Winston Churchill, something to the effect that I have benefited greatly from criticism and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.”

Looking on was Robert Gates, Bush’s choice to be the next secretary of Defense. He will face confirmation by the Senate.

News that Rumsfeld was leaving came hours after voters punished Republicans for the Iraq war and gave Democrats at least 28 seats in the House and a good shot at capturing the Senate.

Criticized for failing to send enough troops to Iraq to quell the insurgency and for interrogation tactics at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons that gave the United States a black eye around the world, Rumsfeld, resigned as one of the longest-serving Defense chiefs.

He headed the Pentagon under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977 and for President Bush since 2001. In recent months, as American casualties mounted in Iraq, many retired generals called for Rumsfeld’s ouster, as did an editorial in the Army Times newspaper.

In a post-election news conference, Bush said that under Rumsfeld, “the military experienced a lot of reform and change while fighting war on terrorism.” He called Rumsfeld “a superb leader in a time of change a patriot a trusted advisor and friend.” And he said that Rumsfeld himself often speaks of the advantage of having “fresh eyes” examine U.S. policy in Iraq.

To replace him, Bush announced he was appointing Gates, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George H.W. Bush. Gates is the president of Texas A & M University and a close friend of the Bush family. He first joined the CIA in 1966 and served in the intelligence community for more than a quarter century under six presidents.

Reaction to the news of Rumsfeld’s departure was swift and biting.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called it welcome news that “could represent a significant shift in direction by this Administration. I hope it opens the door to fresh ideas on Iraq.” Fresh from her own electoral victory, Feinstein said, “Last night, the American people made their view clear that there needs to be a change in Iraq policy. It seems that the message was received. I only wish it had been sooner.”

With much of Washington awaiting suggestions from an Iraq War study group headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Lee Hamilton, Rumsfeld’s departure fueled talk of new options in Iraq.

“If it were up to me he would have been gone a long time ago,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), one of the war’s critics. “But Secretary Rumsfeld’s departure is only a small step in fixing the larger problem that stems from the president’s failed Iraq policy.”

Urging a timetable for redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq, Feingold said the drawdown would “help pressure the Iraqis to get their political house in order” and will help the U.S. military refocus on defeating global terrorist networks.

For Rumsfeld, being shown the door was a bittersweet moment. A former Navy pilot and U.S. congressman from Illinois (he was elected at the age of 30), Rumsfeld has seen his share of high-profile assignments as White House chief of staff under President Gerald Ford, U.S. NATO ambassador and CEO of two Fortune 500 companies.

A spirited advocate of modernizing the military, Rumsfeld reorganized the Pentagon’s worldwide command striction, establishing a strategic review that gave more muscle to intelligence and technology.

But the conflict in Iraq overshadowed whatever goals he achieved in this term as Pentagon chief and in earlier government appointments. As the war spiraled out of control, pressure grew for him to leave. The drumbeat of calls for his departure from military men was especially sharp.

“There has been poor strategic thinking in this,” said retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, a longtime critic of the Iraq war. “There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground.”

Belittling the administration’s repeated calls to “stay the course” in Iraq, Zinni said, “This is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it’s time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it’s been a failure.”
For Rumsfeld, being shown the door was a bittersweet moment. A former Navy pilot and U.S. congressman from Illinois (he was elected at the age of 30), Rumsfeld has seen his share of high-profile assignments as White House chief of staff under President Gerald Ford, U.S. NATO ambassador and CEO of two Fortune 500 companies.

A spirited advocate of modernizing the military, Rumsfeld reorganized the Pentagon’s worldwide command striction, establishing a strategic review that gave more muscle to intelligence and technology.

But the conflict in Iraq overshadowed whatever goals he achieved in this term as Pentagon chief and in earlier government appointments. As the war spiraled out of control, pressure grew for him to leave. The drumbeat of calls for his departure from military men was especially sharp.

“There has been poor strategic thinking in this,” said retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, a longtime critic of the Iraq war. “There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground.”

Belittling the administration’s repeated calls to “stay the course” in Iraq, Zinni said, “This is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it’s time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it’s been a failure.”


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