Don Rumsfeld Staying on as Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld to stay on as defense secretary (Newsday – AP)
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whose future has been in doubt amid spreading violence and U.S. deaths in Iraq, was asked by President Bush on Friday to remain at the Pentagon in the administration’s second term, a senior official said. Bush and Rumsfeld decided on the secretary’s future during an Oval Office meeting. Whether or not Rumsfeld would remain had been the last big question mark about Bush’s Cabinet for his second term. Rumsfeld’s tenure has been marked by unanticipated postwar violence in Iraq and more than 1,250 U.S. deaths, as well as enormous increases in spending on the military after the 9-11 attacks. Describing Bush’s decision, the administration official said the president believed Rumsfeld was “the right person at this moment in our history in fighting the war on terror to lead our armed forces.”
The secretary’s future had been the subject of much speculation, after revelations about abuses at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. Though Bush steadfastly backed his defense chief — one of the more hawkish members of his administration — the acerbic-tongued 72-year-old had many detractors in Congress and the military. It had been widely believed at the Pentagon that Rumsfeld wanted to stay on, at least for a time, in order to oversee the continuing transition in Iraq and shepherd his plan for a fundamental transformation and modernization of the U.S. military.
Rumsfeld is the oldest person to serve as secretary of defense. He also was the youngest, having served during the Ford administration in the mid-1970s. He has a longtime government relationship with Vice President Dick Cheney, dating back to the Ford years.
It’s unclear to me who it was that doubted Bush’s confidence in Rumsfeld. It has been rather obvious that the two have an excellent working relationship. Further, the fact that Colin Powell, the outlyer in the Bush foreign policy team, is the one not staying on for the second term should have been a clarion signal.
That Rumsfeld was both the youngest and now the oldest SecDef is an interesting fact, indeed. If you didn’t know that before, you can now add that to your list of known knowns.