Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2006

Bush looks to Rumsfeld replacement as fresh start

President hopes former CIA director Robert Gates will turn the tide on the war in Iraq

November 9, 2006


— 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 replace Rumsfeld.

'Fresh perspective'

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 conference.

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."

'A good thing for everybody'

President Bush, center, is flanked by outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and his replacement nominee Robert Gates. Bush announced Wednesday that Rumsfeld would be leaving the post he had held for six years.

President Bush, center, is flanked by outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and his replacement nominee Robert Gates. Bush announced Wednesday that Rumsfeld would be leaving the post he had held for six years.

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 reporters.

There was little outward reaction among officials at the Pentagon, beyond surprise at the abrupt announcement.

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 Thursday at Kansas State University.

Face of conflict

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 in sight.

Possible Gates controversy

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he hopes to hold Gates' confirmation hearings in time for the Senate to approve his nomination this year. But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, whose party would control the Senate next year should it win the remaining undecided race in Virginia, said he had questions about Gates' ties to the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration.

Gates ran the CIA under the first President Bush during the first Gulf war. He retired from government in 1993.

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 presidents.

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 of Michigan and Rep. Ike Skelton 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 said.

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 Ford administration.

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 deputy director.

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 2003.

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 elder Bush.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

James Baker III must have dropped by and TOLD GW that the 2008 white house is at stake. The he TOLD GW to bring on Gates.

Insiders trading

A significant portion of the millions of dollars U.S. companies and their politically influential executives have earned in deals with the Saudis has been through military contracts.

The Carlyle Group had a major stake in the large defense contractor B.D.M., which has multimillion-dollar contracts through its subsidiaries to train and manage the Saudi National Guard and the Saudi air force, U.S. Department of Defense records show. In 1998, Carlyle sold its controlling interest in B.D.M. to defense giant TRW International.

Meanwhile, the boards of directors of the Carlyle Group, B.D.M. and TRW are all stocked with high-level Republican policy makers.

Frank C. Carlucci, a former secretary of defense under President Reagan, was chairman of B.D.M. for most of the 1990s. Carlucci, who also served as Reagan's national security adviser and a deputy director of the CIA, now heads the Carlyle Group.

Along with former President Bush, other officials from past Republican administrations now at the Carlyle Group include: former Secretary of State James A. Baker III; ex-budget chief Richard Darman; and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt.

President Bush is himself linked to the Carlyle group: He was a director of one of its subsidiaries, an airline food services company called Caterair, until 1994. Six years later, when Bush was governor of Texas, the board of directors of the Texas teachers' pension fund - some of whom were his appointees - voted to invest $100 million with the Carlyle Group.

The president of B.D.M. is Philip A. Odeen, a former high-level Pentagon official in the Nixon administration. During the Clinton administration, Odeen chaired the Pentagon task force that planned the restructuring of the U.S. military for the 21st century. Currently, he is the vice-chair of the Defense Science Board, which advises the Pentagon on emerging threats.

TRW, the new owner of B.D.M., has its own noteworthy board members, including former CIA director Robert M. Gates and Michael H. Armacost, who served as undersecretary of state under President Reagan and as ambassador to Japan for former President Bush.

Big Saudi money also makes its way back to Texas and the Bush family. The family of Saudi Arabia's longtime U.S. ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, gave $1 million to the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

The revolving door:

Richard Heckler 11 years, 5 months ago

The medicine, Gates, may be worse than the disease.

[b]Gates was the head of the CIA during the Iran-Contra scandal, which is interesting, in light of Daniel Ortega's recent re-election to president in Nicaragua.

Gates was also known for his staunch suport of Reagan's anti-communist policies and for helping funnel extra funding thru secret channels to shore up military and other 'security' elements within the government. [/b]

Buyer beware.

Mkh 11 years, 5 months ago

It's going to be interesting to see if the Democrats put up a fight over this guy for his involvement in the Iran/Contra affair like that did during his comfirmation hearings in the Bush I White House. Or if they pretend to have forgotton who this guy is, and lay down to the Republicans. Rumsfeld is gone, but the policy still remains. Perhaps the most significant gain from this is the blow that hit Cheney in losing his personal pit bull Rumsfeld.

average 11 years, 5 months ago

It would have to be as a filibuster. We go into this confirmation with the Senate we have (the 109th), not the one we might want (i.e., just elected).

Mkh 11 years, 5 months ago

Yeah your probably right, it looks like they are going to try and get him confirmed by the end of the year. Still it will be interesting to see if the Dems even make it an issue or if they just clam up. This might set a precedent for how they deal with appointments now that they have new found confidence.

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