Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has tendered his resignation:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, intends to resign after six stormy years at the Pentagon, Republican officials said Wednesday.
Officials said Robert Gates, former head of the CIA, would replace Rumsfeld. The development occurred one day after midterm elections that cost Republicans control of the House, and possibly the Senate, as well. Surveys of voters at polling places said opposition to the war was a significant contributor to the Democratic victory.
President Bush was expected to announce Rumsfeld’s departure and Gates’ nomination at an afternoon news conference. Administration officials notified congressional officials in advance. In the days leading up to the election, Bush said he wanted Rumsfeld to stay on as defense chief until the end of Bush’s second term.
Wow. More later.
UPDATE: I have the news conference on and Bush is giving perhaps the worst performance I’ve ever seen from him, which is quite an accomplishment. Indeed, it comes across eerily similar to the Saturday Night Live parodies of Bush speeches.
He essentially told a reporter that he had lied last week when asked if Rummy would be going “because that was the only way to get you on to the next question.” Quite bizarre.
Even worse, the suggestion he didn’t want to make this announcement earlier because there was an election coming up. Hello! Major changes in course are something that one might want to mention to voters–especially voters who think the present course is a bad one. I’m simply baffled.
He makes a fair point that one doesn’t want to send the signal that he’s making major tactical decisions for political reasons. Still, the war in Iraq is the most significant public policy issue of the Bush administration.
UPDATE: Here’s the transcript of the sequence referenced above:
REPORTER: Last week you told us Secretary Rumsfeld would be staying on. Why is the timing right now, and how much does it have to do with the election results?
BUSH: You and Hunt and Keil came into the Oval Office and asked me to question one week before the campaign. Basically, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? The reason why is I did not want to make a major decision in the final days of the campaign. The only way to answer that question, and get it on to another question, was to give you that answer. The truth of the matter is as well, that is one reason I gave the answer. The other reason why is I had not had a chance to visit with Bob Gates yet. I had not had my final conversation with Don Rumsfeld yet at that point. I had been talking with Don Rumsfeld over a period of time about fresh perspectives. He likes to call it fresh eyes.
via Think Progress, which also has the video.
Polimom is baffled, too.
UPDATE: Phil Carter –who totally stole my clever headline idea– wonders, “Will we see meaningful strategic change in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the broader war on terror? Or is this a mere political gambit to assign blame for the 2006 midterm elections and build a bridge to Democrats? Or both?”
Bruce McQuain is less than pleased: “Wonderful. Doing something like this the day after getting spanked electorally. Makes perfect sense, or better said, it is par for the course.”
Dan Drezner, however, is pleased as punch [How pleased is that, exactly? -ed. Three cheers worth, apparently.]
First, this blog has wanted Rummy to retire for quite some time. Second, Gates is a member in good standing of the Bush 41 crowd — i.e., he’s, you know, competent.
Third, if it is Gates, this might reduce some of the paranoia about Joe Lieberman-replacing-Rumsfeld-and-then-being-replaced-by-a-Republican scenario that’s been discussed in some parts of the blogosphere. This also kills the Santorum-for-DoD campaign just after it starts, by the way.
Not that I take Kathryn Jean Lopez all that seriously but, yeah. I would note, though, that for all the nostalgia for Bush 41, the man managed to fritter away a 90 point approval election in time to get soundly not re-elected.