Last week, President Bush unequivocally told a group of reporters that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney would “remain with him until the end of his presidency, extending a job guarantee to two of the most-vilified members of his administration.” Bush said, “Both those men are doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them.”
Today, he announced Rumsfeld is resigning and being replaced by former CIA Director Robert Gates. At the press conference, Bush said that “the only way to answer that question, and get it on to another question, was to give you [the reporters] that answer.” Bush admitted that he had talked to Rumsfeld about resigning and was actively searching for his replacement at the time. Watch it:
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.