… is more interesting than meets the eye. In my opinion, Rumsfeld would have resigned before January even if the Republicans had swept the elections.
By Republican Senate rule, Senator Warner would (have had to) step down as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee in January when the new congress sits, making Senator McCain the chairman. I had the distinct impression in December 2004, with Abu Ghraib, McCain’s “I’ve lost all confidence in Rumsfeld,” and William Kristol’s attack in the Washington Post, that Rumsfeld would have to resign. Then Senator Warner came out with a powerful declaration of support, and that guaranteed that the new Congress ( i.e., the new Armed Services Committee) would not make life impossible for him–or the President. I think Warner alone saved Rumsfeld at that point. I can’t conceive that any Cabinet secretary whose party controls Congress could long survive the adamant enmity of the key committee chairmen.
With Warner gone, and an apparent deal between Bush and McCain (political support now in exchange for campaign support later) set to figure prominently in the next two years, Rumsfeld’s position was in my opinion no longer politically viable even with a GOP victory in the elections. And now, with Senator Levin in charge of the Committee, Rumsfeld would rather show up without security in Waziristan Pronvince than on the Hill.
The main point is that Rumsfeld would have resigned either way. And it makes sense for other reasons. He is the longest serving cabinet secretary and will be the longest serving SecDef ever; in the space of six years he has toppled two dictatorships and reorganized the department, its strategy, its force posture, its planning construct, etc., etc. — and he’s really old.
What’s interesting about the timing is that this morning we woke up to a new Democratic congress, and by the time of the evening news everyone was talking about the new secretary of defense. Another suspiciously well-timed blockbuster announcement from the White House.