Rumsfeld quits; Bush taps Gates for post
Rumsfeld quits; Bush taps Gates for post
By ROBERT BURNS and KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated
Press Writers 1 hour, 3 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - After years of defending his secretary of
defense, 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.
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
Bush said Robert 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 U.S. 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 news
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.
But underscoring that he would not bow to those
pushing for a quick U.S. withdrawal, Bush also said,
"I'd like our troops to come home, too, but I want
them to come home with victory."
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
There was little outward reaction among officials at
the Pentagon, beyond surprise at the abrupt
Asked whether Rumsfeld's departure signaled a new
direction in a war that has claimed the lives of more
than 2,800 U.S. troops and cost more than $300
billion, Bush said, "Well, there's certainly going to
be new leadership at the Pentagon."
Voters appeared to be telling politicians that the
sooner the war ends the better. Surveys at polling
places showed that about six in 10 voters disapproved
of the war and only a third believed it had improved
long-term security in the United States.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Rumsfeld was not
leaving immediately. Rumsfeld planned to deliver a
speech on the global war on terrorism at Kansas State
University on Thursday.
Just last week Bush told reporters that he expected
Rumsfeld, 74, to remain until the end of the
administration's term. And although Bush said
Wednesday that his decision to replace Rumsfeld was
not based on politics, the announcement of a Pentagon
shake-up came on the heels of Tuesday's voting.
With his often-combative defense of the war in Iraq,
Rumsfeld had been the administration's face of the
conflict. He became more of a target and more
politically vulnerable as the war grew increasingly
unpopular at home amid rising violence and with no end
Gates ran the CIA under the first President Bush
during the first Gulf war. He retired from government
He joined the CIA in 1966 and is the only agency
employee to rise from an entry level job to become
director. A native of Kansas, he made a name for
himself as an analyst specializing in the former
Soviet Union and he served in the intelligence
community for more than a quarter century, under six
Numerous Democrats in Congress had been calling for
Rumsfeld's resignation for many months, asserting that
his management of the war and of the military had been
a resounding failure. Critics also accused Rumsfeld of
not fully considering the advice of his generals and
of refusing to consider alternative courses of action.
Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan
and Rep. Ike Skelton (news, bio, voting record) of
Missouri the top Democrats on the Armed Services
committees said the resignation would be a positive
step only if accompanied by a change in policy.
"I think it is critical that this change be more than
just a different face on the old policy," Skelton
Rumsfeld, 74, has served in the job longer than anyone
except Robert McNamara, who became secretary of
defense during the Kennedy administration and remained
until 1968. Rumsfeld is the only person to have served
in the job twice; his previous tour was during the
Rumsfeld had twice previously offered his resignation
to Bush once during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse
scandal in spring 2004 and again shortly after that.
Both times the president refused to let him leave.
Gates took over the CIA as acting director in 1987,
when William Casey was terminally ill with cancer.
Questions were raised about Gates' knowledge of the
Iran-Contra affair, and he withdrew from consideration
to take over the CIA permanently. Yet he stayed on as
Then-National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who
has been a critic of the younger Bush's policies,
asked Gates to be his deputy in 1989 during the
administration of Bush's father. The elder President
Bush, a former CIA director himself, asked Gates to
run the CIA two years later.
Gates won confirmation, but only after hearings in
which he was accused by CIA officials of manipulating
intelligence as a senior analyst in the 1980s.
Melvin Goodman, a former CIA division chief for Soviet
affairs, testified that Gates politicized the
intelligence on Iran, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and the
Soviet Union. "Gates' role in this activity was to
corrupt the process and the ethics of intelligence on
all of these issues," Goodman testified.
The Bush administration's use of intelligence on Iraq
has been a central theme of criticism from Democrats
who say the White House stretched faulty intelligence
from U.S. spy agencies to justify invading Iraq in
Gates has taken a much lower profile since leaving
government. He joined corporate boards and wrote a
memoir, "From The Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's
Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold
War." It was published in 1996.
Gates is a close friend of the Bush family, and
particularly the first President Bush. He became the
president of Texas A&M University in August 2002. The
university is home to the presidential library of the