- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

President Bush announced today that he is replacing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, architect of an unpopular war in Iraq, with Robert Gates, former head of the CIA.

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.

Last week, as he campaigned to save the Republican majority, Mr. Bush declared that Mr. Rumsfeld would remain at the Pentagon through the end of his term.

Mr. Rumsfeld, 74, was in his second tour of duty as defense chief. He first held the job a generation ago, when he was appointed by President Ford.

Mr. Gates is the president of Texas A&M; University and a close friend of the Bush family. He served as CIA director for Mr. Bush’s father from 1991 until 1993.

Mr. Gates first joined the CIA in 1966 and served in the intelligence community for more than a quarter century, under six presidents.

His nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

Whatever confidence Mr. Bush retained in Mr. Rumsfeld, the Cabinet officer’s support in Congress had eroded significantly. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the House speaker-in-waiting, said at her first post-election news conference that Mr. Bush should replace the top civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who had intervened in the past to shore up Rumsfeld, issued a statement saying, “Washington must now work together in a bipartisan way - Republicans and Democrats - to outline the path to success in Iraq.”

In his press conference, Mr. Bush congratulated Democrats on their takeover of the House and strong gains in the Senate and announced he had selected a new defense secretary to oversee the increasingly violent conflict in Iraq.

Mr. Bush was asked whether, now that he is replacing Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, he still had full confidence in Dick Cheney and whether the vice president would serve out the rest of his term.

“Yes he does, yes he will,” Mr. Bush replied.

Like Mr. Rumsfeld, to many critics Mr. Cheney has been the face of the war in Iraq and one of its chief advocates.

Mr. Bush expressed both disappointment and surprise over the election results and said he had called Democratic leaders to personally congratulate them. “Actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday,” Mr. Bush said. “Shows what I know.”

He quipped that he had given House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi the name of a Republican interior decorator to help her pick out drapes for her new meeting - poking fun at the California Democrat’s pre-election remark about having her pick of Capitol suites.

As to the role played in Tuesday’s widespread GOP losses, Mr. Bush said, “I believe Iraq had a lot to do with the election, but I think there were other factors as well.” He suggested that a variety of congressional scandals may also have played a role.

He said he would seek to find “common ground” with Democrats without compromising principles.

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