Rumsfeld to Resign, Lieberman Possible Replacement

Speculation that Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld is on the way out is heating up again. Democrat Joe Lieberman is being touted as a successor.

Rummy exit rumored; Lieberman eyed for job (New York Daily News )

White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq, sources said yesterday. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him, but there’s also speculation that Sen. Joe Lieberman – a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election – might become top guy at the Pentagon.

That’s not as farfetched as it might first appear. The Daily News has learned that the White House considered Lieberman for the UN ambassador’s job last year before giving the post to John Bolton, a Bush adviser said. “He thought about it for a week or so and finally said no,” the adviser recalled.

A source close to the White House said Rumsfeld wanted out a year ago, after Bush’s reelection, but neither he nor President Bush wanted his departure to appear to have been forced. “They didn’t want to give the critics the satisfaction that their piling on was what got rid of him,” a Bush adviser said. Bush has told friends that Rumsfeld is a political liability, but the President has a history of sticking with his personnel baggage until an opportune moment. “Only Rumsfeld will make Rumsfeld leave,” a White House source said.

Rumors that Lieberman could replace Rumsfeld started flying early this week, and Bush and Vice President Cheney fanned the flames by quoting the former Democratic veep candidate’s pro-war statements.

While Lieberman would be an inspired choice for the job, the impact on the national debate would be rather minimal. Despite having been a vice presidential nominee just five years ago, Lieberman is considered a “Democrat in Name Only” as evidenced by his poor showing in the 2004 primaries. Bush would get as much credit for reaching across the aisle as Bill Clinton did for tabbing Maine Republican Bill Cohen; namely, none.

What he would get is something of a fresh start with Rumsfeld’s departure. While his repartee with the press early in his second go-round with the job earned him matinee idol status, his act has worn thin. As can be expected, the Democrats, hate him. But he is not well liked by senior officers, or even most of the field grade officers that I’ve talked to. He is, rightly or wrongly, a lightning rod and a symbol of all the mistakes and perceived mistakes in this war.

If he can go out with his head held high after the election of a permanent government in Iraq, his replacement–especially with a well respected figure–might be just the shot in the arm the Bush team needs to get out of the public relations slump they’ve been in the last several months.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Lee says:

    The “public relations slump” has NOTHING to do with the job being done in Iraq. Rumsfeld willl NOT go out on a high note because NO ONE will report it that way.

    Our Fourth Estate is their Fifth Column. Everyone in the world understands that American forces cannot be defeated in the field, SO NO ONE TRIES. From BEFORE Giap America’s enemies went after U.S. public opinion through the press.

  2. Anderson says:

    So we’ll replace a SecDef woefully lacking in judgment with … a Dem woefully lacking in judgment? And without even Rummy’s experience?

    God save the U.S. Armed Forces.

  3. Bithead says:

    Agreement with Lee.
    Also, the only ones to benefit here will be the Democrats, as evidnced by the fact that they’re the only ones really talking about it, as of the talking head shows last weekend.

    Dumb move on Bush’s part, if he takes the bait.
    I doubt he will.

  4. Fersboo says:

    If you believe that tripe about Rummy leaving, I’ve got some New Coke for you; tastes just like regular Coke.

  5. John Burgess says:

    I think this is going to come down to Lieberman’s analysis of his desires and the political reality of CN politics. If he’s still ambitious or interested in his place in history, AND if he thinks he’s going to get drubbed in CN politics, he might take the job.

    While I’ve no doubt of his belief in the mission in Iraq, I’m not sure that this principle will take precedence over his own self-interest. And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing…

  6. McGehee says:

    Are these the same people who were absolutely onvinced last year that Bush was going to bump Cheney from the ticket?

  7. Anderson says:

    Are these the same people who were absolutely onvinced last year that Bush was going to bump Cheney from the ticket?

    Yes, both of them I think.

  8. The New York Post might want to check its facts, and do the Secretary the courtesy of believing what he says so that Reuters doesn’t have to spend all day issuing corrections:

    I wouldn’t count those resignation chickens just yet, gentlemen.